Our Dwindling Agricultural Biodiversity


Not to get all paranoid on you, but we’re petrified at this chart, published in the July issue of National Geographic. As calculated by the Rural Advancement Foundation International, it shows how the number of fruit and vegetable species planted by farmers drastically decreased in the 80 years between 1903 and 1983.

This drastic decline in biodiversity is partly the result of the rush toward seeds with higher yields on the part of increasingly larger and and more consolidated corporate farms, a trend encouraged by the big seed companies.

Where once there were 341 varieties of squash, now there are only 40. A farmer’s choice of tomatoes nose-dived from 408 to 79. Don’t you want to taste each and every one?

The drawbacks are obvious. Many of the bypassed species (some of which may actually be extinct) provided properties that we may wish we had in the future, including resistance to diseases we may not be able to imagine, or produced chemicals that would have been useful at some later moment, or using scientific techniques not yet invented. This may be too many “ifs” for some, but a decline in biodiversity is never a good thing, and makes the world a poorer place.

[National Geographic via Paul Kedrosky]

Thanks to @tracyjane for the link.