Preserving Biodiversity, Making our Food Supply Resilient

4 May

In the 19th century there were 7100 named varieties of apples in America. Now 6800 of those varieties are gone. That’s a terrible loss.

Not just for the principle of the thing – be kind of Mother Earth and all that – but because our survival depends on biodiversity. Now more so than ever because we’re entering an era of rapid and unpredictable climate change. No matter what we do to stem global warming, some amount of climate change is inevitable. If we act prudently in the next few decades we can slow the change, but we can’t stop it.

And that means the the world’s food plants are going to face new weather pattens. Is there enough biodiversity in our food crops to survive the coming changes?

Gary Fowler has been addressing the problem:

Tucked away under the snows of the Arctic Circle is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Sometimes called the doomsday vault, it’s nothing less than a backup of the world’s biological diversity in a horticultural world fast becoming homogenous in the wake of a flood of genetically identical GMOs.

For Cary Fowler, a self-described Tennessee farm boy, this vault is the fulfillment of a long fight against shortsighted governments, big business and potential disaster. Inside the seed vault, Fowler and his team work on preserving wheat, rice and hundreds of other crops that have nurtured humanity since our ancestors began tending crops — and ensuring that the world’s food supply has the diversity needed to stand against the omnipresent threats of disease, climate change and famine.

You can listen to his TED talk at this link (17 minutes). Here’s his organization, the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

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