(CNN)The global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss and species extinction, and a shift to plant based diets is needed to curb the damage being done to nature, according to a new report.
'Shift' to plant-based diets is key to saving world's wildlife
Biodiversity, which is crucial to both human well-being and a healthy planet, is declining faster than at any time in human history, the report from think tank Chatham House said.
Agriculture is driving this destruction, threatening 86% of the 28,000 species at risk of extinction, researchers said in a report launched Wednesday with the UN's environment program.
Cheap food is at the center of this devastation, researchers said: Low cost food is reliant on our use of fertilizer, pesticides, energy, land and water, and use of unsustainable farming methods.
But the low cost of food production creates a "vicious circle," creating a demand for further cheap food, which must be produced through intense and harmful methods, researchers warn.
"The more we drive food production, the cheaper food becomes, and the more our diets become dominated by a smaller number of crops grown intensively and at scale," Tim Benton, Chatham House's research director in emerging risks and one of the report's authors, told CNN in an email.
Intensified agricultural production also degrades soils and ecosystems, rendering land less productive and requiring even more intensive methods of farming to keep up with demand.
"As we grow more food, it becomes economically rational to waste it, over eat the calories and feed grain to livestock so we can eat more meat. Fueling demand further leads to the expectation that supply will grow and prices will fall, leading to more land conversion and more intensification," he said.
The way we produce food isn't only threatening the Earth's biodiversity, researchers warn. Accounting for ar