The bad news just keeps rolling in. -- Dallas

Decline in biodiversity of farmed plants, animals gathering pace

A decline in the diversity of farmed plants and livestock breeds is gathering pace, threatening future food supplies for the world's growing population, the head of a new United Nations panel on biodiversity said on Monday.

Preserving neglected animal breeds and plants was necessary as they could have genes resistant to future diseases or to shifts in the climate to warmer temperatures, more droughts or downpours, Zakri Abdul Hamid said.

"The loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals," Zakri told a conference of 450 experts in Trondheim, central Norway, in his first speech as founding chair of the U.N. biodiversity panel.

Many traditional breeds of cows, sheep or goats have fallen out of favour, often because they yield less meat or milk than new breeds. Globalisation also means that people's food preferences narrow down to fewer plants.

Zakri said there were 30,000 edible plants but that just 30 crops accounted for 95 percent of the energy in human food that is dominated by rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.

He said it was "more important than ever to have a large genetic pool to enable organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions." That would help to ensure food for a global population set to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now. [continue]

Tags: agriculture, animals, biodiversity, conservation, extinction, food, plants

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Replies to This Discussion

I agree - this is an important issue.

Thank you for posting it.

Thanks for linking to an important topic.

I always like to think about "what can I do about this?".  Bad news is bad news, but too much if it is like being on the titanic and having someone say "Iceberg in 1 hour....iceberg in 59 minutes....iceberg in 58 minutes.... lifeboats all departed.... iceberg in 57 minutes.... "

The Monsanto juggernaut and other corporate dominance will continue without abatement.  So, what can the individual do about it?

The repository of active food crop biodiversity will be in the hands of the home gardener.  Some in universities, and some in corporate labs, but none of that is accessible to the ordinary person.

The individual hobbyist can't do it alone, but benefits from growing their own, saving their own open pollinated, locally adapted seeds, and exchanging locally and wider through groups like Seed Savers Exchange, Home Orchard Society, and gardening websites.  These are not going to save the world, but they do mean the individual can have well adapted, non-Monsanto-dependent varieties that will help a little.

02-cleaned rhubarb stalks.jpg

People need to feel empowered.  If we feel like we are unable to take our eyes off the  train coming down the tracks while we are unable to unfasten the seatbelt, to use another metaphor, it's hard to remember there is a pocket knife in the glove compartment.

I am often seduced by the new varieties and plants at Home Depot or Lowes or Fred Meyer.  Nothing wrong with growing those, I think.  This year especially it was difficult to do early seed starting.   But I also maintain some open pollinated, heritage varieties that are hardy and easy to grow in my climate and soil.  It makes me feel like I am doing something about it.  It makes me feel independent, and it gives me something to pass on to others.  I like getting a reminder now and then, to motivate me away from the nation-wide homogenous patented varieties, and toward the ones I know are empowering, which is why I like this article.

Ficus carica whole fruits and fruit cut open.jpg

I also learned to grow some orchard trees by grafting or taking cuttings.  I share them with anyone who asks, to continue that heritage and encourage others to do the same.

(all pics from wikimedia commons, public domain)

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