A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them. – From Food Ark by Charles Siebert
Food security. It’s on everyone’s minds. From consumers asking about food safety, to farmers working hard to pay the bills and work with weather extremes, we are all affected by agriculture. Consumers look for affordable, available, and quality food. Famers respond to that demand, increase productivity, make a living, working with weather changes, and trying to acquaint consumers with their food sources. There are different opinions on where our food systems are headed, but what about preserving food varieties and heritage?
In the July issue of National Geographic, Charles Siebert discusses the Food Arkproject. Read an excerpt from his story below and share your thoughts questions and concerns. Be sure to pick up a copy of NG for the full story.
Photos and excerpt come from the July issue of the National Geographic magazine, available on newsstands June 28.
Most of us in the well-fed world give little thought to where our food comes from or how it’s grown. We steer our shopping carts down supermarket aisles without realizing that the apparent bounty is a shiny stage set held up by increasingly shaky scaffolding. We’ve been hearing for some time about the loss of flora and fauna in our rain forests. Very little, by contrast, is being said or done about the parallel erosion in the genetic diversity of the foods we eat.
Food varieties extinction is happening all over the world—and it’s happening fast. In the United States an estimated 90 percent of our historic fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished. Of the 7,000 apple varieties that were grown in the 1800s, fewer than a hundred remain. In the Philippines thousands of varieties of rice once thrived; now only up to a hundred are grown there. In China 90 percent of the wheat varieties cultivated just a century ago have disappeared. Experts estimate that we have lost more than half of the world’s food varieties over the past century. As for the 8,000 known livestock breeds, 1,600 are endangered or already extinct.