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FiBL: Visiting Friends of Agrobiodiversity Across Europe

A tour to explore how organic plant breeding contributes to sustainable food systems

The publication takes readers on a journey to 15 organic plant and animal breeding initiatives in Europe. Every initiative is presented by a person involved in the initiative. For each initiative, the aims and challenges are described. The selected examples give a good insight into the great diversity of initiatives to maintain and promote biodiversity in organic crops and animal species.

Agrobiodiversity from the past and for the future
To bring healthy, tasty, and fair food to our tables, organic agriculture works in alliance with agrobiodiversity. Agrobiodiversity is the first building block of our food chain and is made up of various components: plants, animals, microorganisms, and their interactions with the environment and humans. Indeed, human activities, cultural practices, and local knowledge are an integral part to shape and conserve biodiversity. Agrobiodiversity ensures sustainable food production through the interactions between all its components.

Agrobiodiversity heritage
Over thousands of years, farmers have selected and adapted plants and livestock that have produced the best results on their farms. However, these requirements vary from region to region, and even from farm to farm. As a result, farmers created a diversity of plant varieties and animal breeds.

Breeding today
Nowadays, only a few farmers take the breeding of plant varieties and animal breeds into their own hands. Instead, a few corporations dominate the market, exporting their seeds and animals worldwide. Consequently, agrobiodiversity suffers, but so do farmers. When the same crop type or animal breed is used over a wide geographical area, the environmental conditions must be standardised. This is usually done with fertilisers and pesticides or concentrated feed and antibiotics. Organic farms have to cope with the changing conditions in our environment and only use as little as possible external inputs.

Breeding for the future
With the development of organic farming, the need for adapted organic breeding developed. Organic breeding has a holistic view, for example, it sees the plant or the animal in relation to the soil, and the rest of its environment. Thus, organic breeding preserves the agrobiodiversity from the past, through the active cultivation of the plants and the keeping of the animals. But it also creates new agrobiodiversity that evolves with the needs and requirements of today's organic agriculture and ensures resilience in a rapidly changing world.

Organic agriculture sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of external inputs with adverse effects.

Visiting Europe’s organic breeders

When looking at organic breeding, one quickly notices that diversity not only plays a special role with plants and animals but also with people. To get to know this diversity better, we take you on a journey through Europe from north to south, visiting the pioneers of organic plant and animal breeding. With their diverse and unique activities, they are contributing, not only to ecological but also to societal resilience.

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Read the entire publication here: Visiting Friends of Agrobiodiversity Across Europe

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