Agrobiodiversity Index report 2021: Assessing Mediterranean Food Systems

Underpinning the benefits of agrobiodiversity in Mediterranean countries

While the Mediterranean food culture is being fast eroded, so is the plant and animal genetic diversity that underpins its healthfulness. Shrinking levels of agrobiodiversity make farmers more vulnerable to climate risks, since less diversity in farming systems translates into reduced options to cope with change.

The Mediterranean is one of the world’s eight ‘centers of origin’, identified by the Russian botanist and geneticist Nikolai Vavilov in the early twentieth century: geographical areas where today’s crops originated, and where, as a result, the genetic diversity of those crops is exceptionally high. In particular, wheats, barleys, forage plants, vegetables, fruits, spices and ethereal oil plants show extremely high diversity in the Mediterranean. These plants have developed resilience traits that enable them to cope with the Mediterranean region’s hot and dry summers. Hundreds of varieties selected by generations of farmers, especially small and medium farmer enterprises, represent the ingredients to prepare the recipes that make the Mediterranean diet healthy, tasty and culturally rich.

Losing this diversity undermines the very survival of the Mediterranean diet and an opportunity to build a sustainable food system in the region.

Bringing the Mediterranean diet back to the table is the best solution for counteracting the effects of climate change, malnutrition and biodiversity losses that are jeopardizing the food and security of the Mediterranean region. A first step is understanding the current status of agrobiodiversity in the region and to what extent countries are contributing to its sustainable use and conservation through their policies and actions.

The Agrobiodiversity Index report 2021: Assessing Mediterranean Food Systems analyses the state of agrobiodiversity in a set of Mediterranean countries, looking at agrobiodiversity in food consumption, production, and genetic resource conservation. It sheds light on the actions and policies countries are already taking to use and preserve their agrobiodiversity. It also provides concrete recommendations on what practices and policies countries could strengthen or put in place to mainstream agrobiodiversity into their food systems.

The report focuses on ten target countries: Algeria, Egypt, France, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Spain, Syria, and Tunisia. These countries were selected to include all countries with at least 1% of the Mediterranean region population and where the official language could be understood by the Agrobiodiversity Index team (to enable analysis of commitment levels in policy documents), namely: English, French, Spanish, Italian or Arabic. The report contributes to strengthening evidence on the benefits of agrobiodiversity in Mediterranean countries for healthy people and a healthy planet.

The report also fed into the second international Agrobiodiversity Congress, held in 2021, to inform and guide the discussions during the event. Key messages from the report will be used to stimulate discussions at country level on the policy actions needed to better integrate agrobiodiversity into the food system and increase adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

Click here to read the full report.

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