Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 3–26 | Cite as

Food security and biodiversity: can we have both? An agroecological analysis

  • Michael Jahi ChappellEmail author
  • Liliana A. LaValle


We present an extensive literature review exploring the relationships between food insecurity and rapid biodiversity loss, and the competing methods proposed to address each of these serious problems. Given a large and growing human population, the persistence of widespread malnutrition, and the direct and significant threats the expanding agricultural system poses to biodiversity, the goals of providing universal food security and protecting biodiversity seem incompatible. Examining the literature shows that the current agricultural system already provides sufficient food on a worldwide basis, but in doing so methodically undermines the capacity of agroecosystems to preserve biodiversity. However, the available evidence emphasizes the interdependence of biodiversity and agriculture, and the important role each plays in the maintenance of the other. Thus, our review supports the claim that the solutions to the problems of widespread food insecurity and biodiversity loss need not be mutually exclusive, and that it may be possible to address both using appropriate alternative agricultural practices.


Agroecology Alternative agriculture Biodiversity Conservation Food security Organic agriculture Political ecology 



American Dietetic Association


Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Genetically modified


International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development


Integrated pest management


Integrated plant nutrient systems


National Research Council


Secretaria Municipal de Abastecimento


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification


United Nations Development Programme


United Nations Millennium Project


World Health Organization



The authors would like to thank J. Vandermeer for his help and mentorship, and K. Avilés Vázquez, S. Hepburn, S. Philpott, M. Reiskind, E. Werner, and R. Nussbaum for their helpful comments. Thanks also go to S. Uno, E. Peterson Dickson, and I. Carbonell for help with translations of some foreign language references. This paper also greatly benefited from conversations with the members of the New World Agriculture and Ecology Group, with special thanks owed to G. Smith, C. Badgley and I. Perfecto, and from additional comments by L. DeLind, H. James, and four anonymous reviewers. D. E. Nelson provided editorial assistance. All errors are ours. MJC received financial support from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Program, the National Security Education Program David Boren Fellowship, and the University of Michigan’s Merit Fellowship Program and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. LAL received support from the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program of the University of Michigan.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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