Seed World

It’s the International Day for Biological Diversity. A Government Report has a Warning for the World

new report from a Canadian government think tank warns that a “loss of biodiversity” and the “collapse of ecosystems” is one of 35 alarming threats that could significantly affect the global community.

The Disruptions on the Horizon 2024 report is issued by Policy Horizons Canada, a Canadian government think tank led by Kristel Van der Elst, the former head of strategic foresight at the World Economic Forum. 

According to the report, the 35 threats identified to Canada and the world are not guaranteed to occur, but they are plausible. Neglecting to consider them may lead to policy failure and missed opportunities, the authors state. 

“Thinking through possible disruptions when developing policies, programs, and strategies could help seize opportunities, navigate impacts, and minimize risks,” the report says.

The report notes that biodiversity (or the variety of life on Earth) keeps natural world in balance, and ecosystem collapse and the loss of biodiversity could have cascading impacts on all living things, putting basic human needs such as clean air, water, and food in jeopardy. 

The collapse of ecosystems and the resultant loss of biodiversity could trigger cascading impacts that permeate every aspect of life. Here are some of the profound effects the report speculates on if a loss of biodiversity were to occur:

  • Health and Wellbeing: As ecosystems degrade, the availability of clean air and water diminishes, leading to increased incidences of respiratory and waterborne diseases. The loss of medicinal plants and the disruption of natural disease control mechanisms could result in a rise in malnutrition and other health issues, overwhelming healthcare systems and reducing overall quality of life.
  • Economic Stability: Key industries that rely on natural resources, such as farming, fishing, and logging, are particularly vulnerable. The depletion of fish stocks, soil degradation, and the loss of pollinators can lead to significant economic losses and food insecurity. This economic instability can ripple through communities, leading to job losses and heightened poverty rates.
  • Social Fabric and Security: As basic needs become harder to meet, social cohesion could unravel. Scarcity of resources might lead to increased competition and conflict, potentially escalating to violence. In such a scenario, societies might see a rise in authoritarian and anti-establishment sentiments as people seek security and stability.
  • Psychological Impact: Beyond physical health, the psychological stress of living in a degraded environment can affect mental health. The loss of nature-based recreation and cultural practices tied to natural landscapes can erode a sense of belonging and identity, further destabilizing communities.

Navigating the Crisis

Given the plausibility of these disruptions, the report goes on to say that it’s imperative that policymakers, businesses, and individuals take proactive steps to mitigate the impacts of biodiversity loss. 

When coupled with some of the other potential threats identified in the report, the world could be challenged in the future by a scenario that could have profound implications for the seed industry. They include the following scenarios:

  • People cannot tell what is true and what is not. Should the information ecosystem be flooded with human- and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-generated content, mis- and disinformation could make it almost impossible to know what is fake or real and what sources to trust. This could further fuel misperceptions of biotechnologies like GMOs and gene edited crops, and further lead to public policy that restricts and outright bans technologies like seed treatments.
  • Vital natural resources are scarce. The demand for vital natural resources such as water, sand, and critical minerals could outpace supply, the report says. If this occurs, access to resources is would either be limited by a dwindling finite supply or controlled by a few suppliers, it goes on to note. The implications for agriculture would be staggering.
  • Downward social mobility is the norm. Should this come to fruition, people could not enter the housing market and would face increasingly insecure work arrangements. Many Canadians would themselves in lower socioeconomic conditions than their parents, the report notes — a trend some argue is already occurring. This could affect the public’s ability to afford food, which would result in huge challenges for the ag sector.

To read the full report visit the Policy Horizons Canada website.