Over the last 50 years, diets around the world have become more and more similar while the diversity of food supply has decreased, which could mean that the world’s crops will be increasingly vulnerable to climate change and other dangers, according to a new report.
Eating a less diverse range of crops, for example, could bring health or nutritional problems, but it could also put at risk world food supplies if a dominant crop variety becomes vulnerable to pests or diseases, or to the increasingly unpredictable weather that comes with climate change, according to the report by CGIAR, a global agricultural research consortium.
Crops are threatened. The big examples, terrible ones of course, are the Irish potato famine and an event with corn in the U.S. in the 70s, in which a fungus swept through highly homogenous U.S. cornfields, destroying 15 percent of the nation’s crop in 1970.
What is new is the scale of the risk, and the stakes involved. As global population continues to grow, the need to feed additional billions expands along with it. “International agencies have hammered away in recent years with the message that agriculture must produce more food for over 9 billion people by 2050,” said co-author Andy Jarvis, in a press release.
If crop failures occur in one of a very few dominant crops in a much more populated world, the effect could be disastrous, Khoury said.
To effectively protect food security, farmers must produce a variety of crops, not just a few high yielding ones. The two goals are complementary and not competing as diversity and variety doesn’t mean a decrease in yield at all
The limiting factor in ensuring diverse crops are grown is a lack of research and cooperation between the public sector and the private sector, the latter of which dominates food production and supply more than ever before.
We should promote the adoption of more varied crops and fostering public awareness of the need for healthier diets, support the conservation and continued use of genetically varied crops.
He need to protect the genetic diversity that breeders use to change and make their crops more productive cannot be over emphasized.
A broad range of crop varieties are “typically held in seed banks or gene banks around the world, but they’re drastically underfunded, there’s a lot still in the world that’s out there that hasn’t been collected, and our political systems aren’t yet doing a good job of both funding them and making them available to the people who need them the most: breeders from countries that don’t have a lot of resources,” he said.
The news isn’t all bad. In some regions, and parts of some countries, diets remain diverse and traditional. In Norway and Sweden, diets have changed relatively little and diversity in foods eaten remains strong. That has come about in part because of public education campaigns and awareness about the impacts of food choices, as well as policies on taxation and import tariffs, Khoury said.
In some areas of the world, diets are even growing more diverse, particularly in cereals and vegetables.
Culled from article by Samuel Mintz of AlertNet Climate.