The wealth of food diversity in the world is amazing

But we're losing it every day!

80% lost

Mexico, where maize originated, has lost 80% of its maize varieties since the 1930s.

17% at risk

17% of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction and nearly 100 were lost between 2000 and 2014.

This loss is occurring with well-known plants and animals, but also to some that you may be less familiar with like moringa, a Himalayan “miracle tree” celebrated for its health benefits.

And livestock like the Ostrich, whose meat and eggs are used as a source of protein, and its oil for medicinal purposes.

The result of losing the diversity is

We depend on a shockingly fragile foundation for our food.

1

There are 30,000 edible plant species that exist

2

We’re only eating a handful of these – around 150

3

Just 12 crops provide 80% of our calories

4

Meaning we’re relying on less than 1% of the food crops available to us

5

Wheat, rice, maize and potato alone provide 60% of all calories

2.100
Wait. What? Yes, you heard me

Food diversity matters

both within crops and between crops

Drag me

We must conserve all food diversity if we’re going to nourish 9 billion people by 2050. That’s a lot of mouths to feed!

At the same time

Our climate is changing, meaning:

Increased pests & diseases

Rising sea levels

Hotter temperatures and less predictable rain

All making it harder for farmers to feed us

The good news is

By using the unique characteristics found in our foods, we can tackle these challenges and not only survive, but thrive.

Cracking the Coconut

More than 50 billion coconuts are harvested every year for our beloved coconut products and also for food and shelter in many parts of the world. Producers need new options to overcome diseases, pests and droughts, like the variety Arasampatti Tall. Scientists in India found that this single palm produced more than the major national varieties, while also surviving serious droughts.

St. Croix 
Sheep

These sheep originated in the hot, humid conditions of the Caribbean. They were brought to mainland USA in 1975 where they have since been used for their high resistance to parasites, high tolerance for heat and humidity and suitability for low-input meat production. Winner, winner, sheep for dinner!

A Helping of Diversity

Diversity is also a source of unique flavor. Vegetable breeder, Michael Mazourek, and Chef, Dan Barber, developed a new butternut squash variety known as the Robin’s Koginut. Derived by crossing two squash varieties prized by cooks, this new chef favorite is sweet, intensely squash-y and totally delicious. New varieties like this are part of a larger initiative at Row 7 Seed Company (co-founded by Barber and Mazourek) to pair chefs and plant breeders in the development of new varieties that make an impact in the soil and at the table. Photo: Row 7 Seed Company

The even better news

This treasure trove of food diversity is simple to conserve when grown in farmers’ fields and stored in seed banks.

The world has recognized the value of doing so in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, SDG Target 2.5 calls on us all to safeguard what’s left of our crop and livestock diversity and put it to good use.

 

Infinite Loop

The Food Forever Initiative is working to show you how people are coming together to do just that, and how you can too! So that all of us– even our great, great, great, grandchildren – can enjoy delicious, nutritious food, forever.

The Food Forever Initiative

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