The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has warned that the genetic diversity of crops and their relatives in the wild could be lost forever, posing a threat to future food security.
The FAO says that special efforts need to be made to not only conserve but also utilize a wider range of food crops, especially in developing countries.
In the USA, only 5% of the apple varieties that existed two centuries ago still remain. 90% of vegetable varieties have disappeared over the last hundred or so years in the UK.
A contributing factor to this has been a handful of companies quietly taking control of the world’s food sources, patenting food crop species and reducing crop diversity. We may need these varieties one day to help feed the world, or they may hold keys to farming in a world greatly altered by climate change.
We are not powerless in this – this does not have to happen.
If you have a veggie garden or are planning one, something you can do is to plant heirloom and heritage seeds. These are “old world” varieties not altered by genetic modification. The range available these days is truly eye popping – for example, purple carrots. Yes, purple – orange carrots are a relatively new development.
While you likely won’t find these varieties at your local nursery or gardening store, there are many online stores that specialize in heritage and heirloom fruits, berries and vegetables. Once you see what’s available, you’ll likely never buy standard seed again. Even if you have very limited space, you could give heritage and heirloom herbs a try – and share your bounty and seeds with others!
You never know, it could be your nurturing of these species that may help the world in the future.
Genetic modification vs. selective breeding – there is a difference.