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Solutions to Save Our Food & Environment with Crop Diversity

Protecting natural resources goes beyond air, water and oil. Food depends on biodiversity of plants and we must save our endangered diversity of food seeds.

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Together with the air we breathe and the water we drink, crop diversity is one of the most fundamentally important resources for human life on earth.

This diversity is awe inspiring - there are more than 200,000 varieties of wheat alone. It provides the natural, biological basis of our ability to grow the food required today, as well as to meet the challenges of population growth, changing climates and constantly evolving pests and diseases.

Massive Effort Underway To Save Endangered Seeds

No country in the world is self-sufficient in crop diversity – agriculture everywhere depends on it. Yet this diversity, contained and stored in seeds, is at risk of disappearing. But we don’t have to sit back and let this happen.

Farmers and plant breeders around the globe are planting thousands of endangered seeds as part of an effort to save 100,000 varieties of food crops from extinction. The deals already cover some 53,000 of the 100,000 varieties targeted.

BANANAS: Lack of diversity may condemn the most popular single product on the world’s supermarket shelves to a sterile grave. And it holds a lesson for other crops too, about how the loss of crop diversity is threatening their ability to adapt and survive.

In many cases, only a handful of seeds remain from rare varieties of barley, rice and wheat whose history can be traced back to the Neolithic era, said Carey Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, who is speaking at the 2009 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

The effort, which Fowler thinks is the biggest biological rescue effort ever undertaken, is aimed at rescuing seeds stored under less-than-optimal conditions in underfunded seed banks as well as those threatened by human and natural disasters. The rescuers hope to preserve seed samples that might provide genetic traits needed to fight disease or address climate change."

Some of the most imaginative solutions to the problem of global climate change involve planetary-scale geoengineering projects. But crop diversity may provide some surprising solutions for a fraction of the cost. Plants reflect slightly different amounts of light depending on factors like how waxy the leaves are - and so careful choice of crop varieties may help cool the planet.

Support the Global Crop Diversity Trust

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| food | sustainable agriculture | crisis |


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