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by intern Emily Vaughn

“In a world of increasing globalization and environmental degradation, management of its most precious living resource, biological diversity, is one of the most important and critical challenges facing humankind today.”
– Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity

While slow food advocates might value biodiversity solely for its ecological value, the UN seeks to increase awareness about the other sectors that also rely on it by naming 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). For example, did you know that more than 57% of the 150 most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in the US “have their origins in biodiversity?” The importance of biodiversity is so far-reaching that Dr. Robert Bloomfield, director of the UK’s IYB celebrations, points to a recent international report which warns that “our neglect of the natural services provided by biodiversity is an economic catastrophe of an order of magnitude greater than the global economic crisis.”

Of course, biodiversity is hugely important in agriculture. What better microcosm of biological interdependence is there than a farm? Whether considering air and water purification, microbial composition of soil, erosion prevention, or disease resistance, biodiversity is always center stage in food production, and is crucial for food security.

Keep an eye on the news and our blog for coverage of IYB events and talks, especially after the February 10 North American kickoff at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the meantime, check out the excellent resources for educators and concerned citizens that the IYB’s organizing body, the Conference for Biological Diversity, has prepared.

As the new biodiversity program intern at Slow Food USA, I’m excited to see worldwide attention surrounding an issue that I’ve chosen to make my own focus, and look forward to using the blog to spread the word about UN and SFUSA biodiversity projects in the coming months!