BERLIN -- Nations must act to slow extinction rates, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday, arguing the loss of species threatened food supplies for billions of people.
Just 10 days before the start of a UN summit on biodiversity in the western city of Bonn, Gabriel told the German parliament that both industrialised and developing countries had to step up their efforts.
"When we talk about biodiversity, we are talking about an instruction manual for the planet," Gabriel said. "There are a huge number of examples to show this is about the survival of billions of people."
Gabriel, due to open the Bonn summit, pointed to marine life as an example.
"If we don't do anything, there won't be any more commercial fishing by 2050. Imagine what that means for the world's food supplies," Gabriel said, noting several billion people rely on protein from fish to survive.
UN experts say human activity, including the emission of greenhouse gases, threatens to cause the worst spate of extinctions on earth since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Some experts say three species disappear every hour.
Gabriel also pointed to a rice virus which wiped out many of the world's varieties of rice. He said scientists found one type of rice that was resistant to the virus.
"That stopped the destruction of rice stocks around the world and people dying of hunger. Imagine if we had destroyed this variety of rice through development," he said.
About 4,000 international experts and government ministers will try to agree on ways to slow the rate of loss of plants and animals at the Bonn Convention on Biological Diversity meeting.
A summit in 2002 set a goal of slowing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 but experts say little progress has been made, not least because no baselines were set.
The EU has a more ambitious goal to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.
Campaigners say Germany itself has its work cut out. A World Wildlife Fund report this week showed Europe's biggest economy