The International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated annually on 22 May, marks the date when the text of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted back in 1992. Besides raising awareness around the value and importance of biodiversity, it also fosters actions to protect it.

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The sixth edition of the CBD, to be held in Colombia in October, dedicates unprecedented attention to the food–biodiversity nexus. Among the topics that will be covered are (1) ‘Food systems depend on biodiversity and ecosystem services’; (2) ‘Agriculture must be part of the solution, not the problem’; (3) Biodiversity underpins all fishing and aquaculture activities’; and (4) ‘Genetic diversity: the hidden secret of life’. These topics underscore the impact that food production and consumption have on biodiversity while at the same time depending on it, as well as the potential to transform this relationship through regenerative practices with mutually positive outcomes.

The agreement reached in the previous edition of the CBD in Montreal includes targets to protect 30% of Earth, reform US $500 billion (£410 billion) of environmentally damaging subsidies, and address and disclose the impact businesses. While there is no doubt that this is an important advancement, decisions related to policy design and implementation in specific contexts still require a deeper understanding of the issues faced and what is required to overcome them.

Most of the primary research content featured in the May issue of Nature Food — regardless of their primary focus — offers some contribution to the topics listed above. Two articles focus on the impacts of food security on biodiversity. Wen and colleagues show how uneven agricultural contraction within fast-urbanizing urban agglomeration has decreased nitrogen-use efficiency and food system sustainability in China. Nitrogen losses cause air and water pollution, harming life on land and in water. Zhou and colleagues analyse the global dissemination of Salmonella enterica associated with centralized pork industrialization. Intensive farming and global transportation have particularly reshaped the pig industry, leading to the spread of associated zoonotic pathogens that can cause severe food-borne infections.

Three more articles illustrate practices that would reduce the impact of food systems on biodiversity. Gu and colleagues show how selected agricultural management practices in China can enhance nitrogen sustainability and benefit human health. Lynch et al. estimate that the harvest from inland recreational fishing equates to just over one-tenth of all reported inland fisheries catch at a global level, highlighting the potential contribution of inland recreational fisheries to food security. Finally, Simon et al. examine how redesigning food systems according to circularity principles can support current European protein intake levels while reducing land use and greenhouse gas emissions — both vital to fauna and flora.

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