New report finds farm practices must change to protect endangered species and habitats

Cocoa, Costa Rica © Rainforest Alliance
A new report released by the International Institute for Sustainable Development has found that sustainable agriculture practices must be widely implemented in order to stem the alarming loss of biodiversity and to protect endanged species.

Agricultural production currently accounts for 40 per cent of global land surface and is responsible for 70 per cent of projected losses in terrestrial biodiversity due to widespread land conversion, pollution and soil degradation.

“What happens in agriculture matters,” said Scott Vaughan, President-CEO, IISD. “Growing demand for certified products presents a major opportunity to protect our natural resources. The market is rewarding efforts to conserve critical habitats, protect soil and water quality, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. But market forces are not enough.”

The market value of certified agricultural products was estimated to be USD 52.5 billion in 2015 for eight major commodities (bananas, cotton, coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar, palm oil and soybeans) according to Standards and Biodiversity. That is up from USD 31.6 billion in 2012, the previous estimate by the State of Sustainability Initiatives Review.

Two other major commodities – fisheries and forestry – also registered significant growth, according to the new estimates. The sustainable forestry market grew to USD 231.8 billion in 2015 from USD 200.3 billion in 2012. The sustainable fisheries market grew to USD 8.9 billion in 2015 from USD 6.8 billion in 2012. The total trade value of the top ten sustainable commodity markets grew to USD 293.2 billion in 2015 from USD 238.7 billion in 2012.

Some agricultural commodity markets are now dominated by sustainability standards. Half of global coffee production was standards-compliant in 2014 (the latest available data,) along with 30 per cent of cocoa production, 22 per cent of palm oil production and 18 per cent of global tea production. 

The report, Standards and Biodiversity, released in June, it forecasts that four other agricultural commodities — bananas, cotton, sugar and soybeans — will have compliance rates of at least 10 per cent by 2020.

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