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Surprising Science

We Have Lost 93% of Our Food Variety in 80 Years

Since the industrialization of agriculture and the more recent trend toward genetically modified foods, we have lost an astounding 93% of the diversity in our food seeds. 

What’s the Latest Development?

In the last 80 years, we have lost 93% of the diversity in our food seeds, according to National Geographic. The industrialization of agriculture as well as our current trend toward genetically modified foods has steadily put emphasis on a seed’s ability to generate the highest yield per acre. “In 1903, we had almost 500 varieties of lettuce. By 1983, we had just 36. Radishes, peas, and beets have fared no better. In fact, the most steadfast of the crops has been the tomato, which, probably due to the popularity of strange and tasty heirloom varieties, only lost about 80% of its seed diversity.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Nature has a wonderful ability to balance its many competing elements, creating sustainable and symbiotic ecosystems. Humans’ meddling, while necessary to support the ever-expanding population, has created certain imbalances. Monocultures, for example, strip the land of nutrients, forcing farmers to use chemically derived fertilizers that create environmentally hazardous runoffs. Still, if the trend in public consciousness continues moving toward supporting community projects like farmers’ markets, the diversity of our foods will be protected. 

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