Restoring biodiversity and slowing climate change are crucial to protect health

Colin Butler, Jouni J K Jaakkola, Sinead Boylan, Rosemary A McFarlane, John D Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Lukoye Atwoli and colleagues1 deliver a compelling call to address interacting global crises and to improve equity. Crucially, they link biodiversity loss with health and clearly warn that the Earth system is now too close to multiple tipping points, beyond which lie “catastrophic, runaway environmental change”.2 However, we think there is risk that the part of Atwoli and colleagues’ Comment concerned with future food security could give rise to pessimism.
Irrespective of whether crop yield potentials are actually declining, food insecurity is deepening as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result of persisting unequal distribution of food and other forms of wealth and human rights. Scientists increasingly warn of synchronous or consecutive crop failures in multiple regions that produce large quantities of wheat and other food staples.3 Without transformational reform in global thinking, such a scenario is likely to exacerbate inequitable food aid, mirroring the world's self-defeating and unfair COVAX roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. Alleviative strategies not mentioned by Atwoli and colleagues include markedly reducing the current diversion of crops for use as animal feed and fuel, such as soy (more than 90%), maize, sugar cane, and palm oil.4 Wild fish need not be fed to farmed, fish and food waste can be reduced. To benefit environmental and human health, a reduction in the average consumption of animal products by humans is crucial, both globally and especially in middle-income and high-income countries.5 Insect farming is increasing and might offer a way to expand the supply of nutrients for human and animal consumption at a lower environmental cost, including a reduced need for arable land and water. The nutritional status of the global poor can be bolstered by improving access to water and sanitation. Finally, health and other benefits will accrue from increased family planning support and improved education, including in regions that are currently food insecure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-1
Number of pages1
Issue number10313
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2021


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