The natural support systems that agriculture depends on are deteriorating around the world. Global food production is at risk as plants, insects and organisms crucial to food production are in steep decline. In the last two decades, around 20% of the planet’s vegetated surface has become less productive.
Although the world is producing more food than ever before, it is relying on ever-expanding monocultures. Two-thirds of crop production comes from just nine species: sugar cane, maize, rice, wheat, potatoes, soybeans, oil-palm fruit, sugar beet and cassava. Overreliance on a small number of species means the food system is more susceptible to disease outbreaks and climate change.
Overdependence on a small range of species was a major factor in the famine in Ireland in the 1840s, crop failures in the US in the 20th century, and crop failures in Samoa in the 1990s.
Soil degradation and the loss of forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species are putting humanity as risk of catastrophic crop failures.