Biodiversity-positive food systems

How can we transform food systems to make them biodiversity-positive? This requires research into many aspects, including genetics, cultivation, harvest, processing, consumer demand and food safety. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) invests in new pathways for innovation and collaboration.

In the past decades, WUR has made a major contribution to the challenging task of adapting our food systems to the increasing demand for healthy, sustainably produced food in a changing world. There are growing concerns, however, that the current unprecedented biodiversity loss is undermining the ecosystem services that are essential for the quality of life, and the food system in particular.

For example, the FAO (2019) states that enhancing biodiversity in the food system is “indispensable to food security and sustainable development”. The warnings from renowned global scientific panels about the negative effects of biodiversity loss on food security call for a reconsideration of the role of biodiversity in the food system.

New pathways

That is why the investment programme 'Biodiversity-Positive Food Systems' (B+FS) aims to provide the fundamental knowledge for innovative pathways that enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services on fields, farms, in landscapes and value chains. WUR is increasingly marrying the domains of biodiversity and food. It has gradually changed its agricultural approach from one that seeks solely to enhance agricultural and economic efficiencies, to one that also includes social-ecological sustainability and enhancing biodiversity as guiding principles. Explicitly, this programme combines feasible production, supply- and demand-side food system efforts with creating opportunities for agrobiodiversity and conservation of natural biodiversity in the landscape.

Infographic about biodiversity-positive food systems. It's an agricultural landscape with on the left a magnifying glass hovering over crops, with the text 'Breeding for diversity'. In the middle there are people and circles, representing 'Acceleration for change'. On the right is a factory with harvested crops on an assembly line, safety checkmarks and consumers having a meal. The text says 'Flexible processing'. This visual was made by Natasha de Sena,

Main themes

Overseeing the developments in the domain of biodiversity and food system, three research themes within the WUR food systems framework were identified with high priority for biodiversity-positive food systems:

  1. Breeding for diversity to broaden the genetic base of the food system
  2. Scaling up promising biodiversity-positive practices
  3. Post-harvest implications for diversity and variation in raw materials.

Multidisciplinary research and development teams work on these flagship themes for the duration of the investment programme (2022-2024).

See also

Wildcard projects

In addition, the investment programme aims to catalyse the creativity of the WUR community by supporting a set of smaller research and outreach projects. These 'wildcard' projects advance scientific frontiers by taking on risky and innovative approaches, forming new collaborations and connecting with key stakeholders.

See also