Some scientists have termed this time "the sixth great extinction" in Earth's history, stating that we are gradually losing biodiversity in all types of species, even farm animals, according to a press release from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
"The good news is the rate of decline is dropping but the latest data classify 22 percent of domesticated breeds at risk of extinction," Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid, Founding Chair of the IPBES stated, in his first-ever public remarks.
A breed of animal is considered endangered when it falls to about 1,000 animals.
Farm animal breeds become often become endangered when either modern society no longer has a need for them or if the difference in their qualities has not been recognized.
"Causes of genetic erosion in domestic animals are the lack of appreciation of the value of indigenous breeds and their importance in niche adaptation, incentives to introduce exotic and more uniform breeds from industrialized countries, and product-focused selection," according to the press release.
The diversity of domesticated crops is declining as well, crops have lost about 75 percent of genetic diversity over the past century. This is due to the fact that farmers abandoned local crop varieties for genetically uniform plants designed to have the best yield.
There are 30,000 edible plant species but only 30 crops account for 95 percent of human plant consumption.
"The decline in the diversity of crops and animals is occurring in tandem with the need to sharply increase world food production and as a changing environment makes it more important than ever to have a large genetic pool to enable organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions," Dr. Zakri saud.
Last year's Rio+20 international environmental summit of nations agreed to set multi-year global objectives, many of which target biodiversity.
"I would argue, though, that advancing towards equity and sustainable development requires us to go beyond," Dr. Zakri said. "We need to meet the fundamental challenge of decoupling economic growth from natural resource consumption, which is forecast to triple by 2050 unless humanity can find effective ways to 'do more and better with less.' There are no simple blueprints for addressing a challenge as vast and complex as this but it's imperative we commit to that idea."