Agro-Biodiversity Conservation in Europe: Ethical Issues
While it is commonly acknowledged that the ecosystemic, and the inter- and intra-specific diversity of natural life is under threat of being irremediably lost, there is much less awareness that the diversity in agro-ecosystems is also under threat. This paper is focused on the biodiverse agro-ecosystems generated by landraces (LRs), i.e., farmer-developed populations of cultivated species that show among- and within-population diversity and are linked to traditional cultures. The aim of this work is to arouse concern about their loss, to explain how they can be conserved, and to discuss values that support maintaining and/or restoring on-farm agro-biodiversity. Although agriculture has relied on biodiverse agro-ecosystems for millennia, most of them have disappeared or are disappearing due to profound transformations in the socio-economic context. This is discussed with particular reference to the European situation. The positive values of LRs and LR systems that support their conservation are discussed along with possible objections. The conservation of LRs and LR systems can be well justified on ethical grounds. In particular, the complex intertwining of the biological and cultural contexts of LR systems, which continuously creates new adaptive responses to the changing socio-economic and eco-physical processes, is a value that strongly motivates conservation, particularly when the needs of future generations are considered.