Connecting the dots that link ecosystems to agricultural and food systems

TEEB Agric &Food participants

Geneva, 7 February 2014

New study ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture and Food’ intends to provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of the eco-agri-food systems complex.

Healthy and resilient ecosystems are essential for agriculture to thrive and produce food for humans. In turn, agricultural practices, the process of food production, its distribution and consumption patterns have positive and negative impacts on ecosystems.

In spite of these significant links, ecosystems, agricultural and food systems are typically evaluated in isolation, mainly because these links remain economically invisible.

The TEEB Secretariat with support from UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) organized a scoping workshop in Brussels from 22-23 January 2014, to develop the structure and define the content for a forthcoming study entitled ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture and Food (TEEB-AF)’ intended to  provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of  the eco-agri-food systems complex.

The study, planned to start in Spring 2014, aims to assess the social, environmental, economic, and health-related benefits and costs of agricultural production systems, so that governments and business can use the information and recommendations to improve economic and policy decision-making in the agricultural sector.

Pollination, erosion prevention or decomposition are examples of the benefits to agricultural production that are provided by biodiversity and ecosystem services. In contrast habitat encroachment, species reduction or soil erosion are some of the negative impacts of agricultural production on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The study seeks to improve understanding of these benefits and costs, in the anticipation that this understanding will make it possible to assess the economic trade-offs between short-term productivity gains, longer-term ecosystem impacts and the effects on agricultural productivity in the long term.

50 experts attended the scoping workshop from amongst others the European Commission, charitable trusts, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) network, academia and non -governmental organizations.

The TEEB-AF study will build on ongoing initiatives and gather evidence necessary to identify policy options that can facilitate a transition towards more sustainable agricultural practices, with a particular emphasis on the role of small holder farmers. It is the next in a series of studies undertaken by the TEEB project since 2008 to draw attention to the benefits of ecosystems and biodiversity, the cost of degradation and the solutions for decision-makers to capture these values.

In  2010 the results from the TEEB report series were presented at the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and since then various countries have initiated TEEB studies.

The TEEB-AF Study is expected to follow a  structure similar to previous TEEB studies and include a series of reports: An Interim Report with new and compelling evidence, two core reports with a focus on (i) Scientific & Economic Foundations, and (ii) Policies, Production and Consumption and finally a Synthesis Report presenting the key overall messages from the study.

Picture credits: Arnold Jacques de Dixmude

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