Essential resources provided by biodiversity

Out of the approximately 240.000 known plant species, only some 3000 species have been used for food throughout history; only 150 species have been cultivated to a larger extent, and fewer than 20 species provide over 90 % of human food supply, with just four species - wheat, maize, rice and potatoes - providing for more than half of human food requirements. This specialisation on a few species, as well as the breeding of so-called high-yielding varieties, which increasingly displace local varieties, lead to further reduction in genetic diversity within the used species. However, the yield increase thus achieved is associated with increased susceptibility to diseases, pests or atmospheric influences, so that humanity's food supply may only be guaranteed in the long term by introgressing genetic material of wild species. Natural species and varietal diversity thus constitutes a reservoir of genetic diversity: its conservation is of paramount importance for sustainable food security.

A quarter of all medicines are created from plants, and another quarter come directly or indirectly from animals or micro-organisms. Of the 150 most commonly prescribed medicines in the U.S. in 1993, 80% were synthetic products based on the model of natural agents, semi-synthetic derivatives of natural products, or, in a few cases, natural products. In consideration of the fact that, out of the 240.000 known plant species, only some 5.000 have so far been exhaustively tested for their suitability in pharmaceutical production, the immense potential of plant and animal species diversity for future pharmaceutical research becomes evident.t.

Industrial Raw Materials
Renewable raw materials of plant or animal origin play an ever-increasing role in times of growing scarcity of non-renewable resources, such as petroleum or natural gas. Different kinds of wood, rubber, fats, oils, waxes, resins, dyes, fibres and other raw materials originate from living organisms. It is estimated that the chemical industry already obtains more than 10% of its raw materials from agriculture and forestry. Biological diversity thus constitutes an increasingly important reservoir of raw materials for potential industrial use

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