Biodiversity

And why it matters

Electricity? Telephone? Mobile phone? Internet?

Actually, one of the greatest human achievements has been to tap the amazing diversity of the natural world to our own ends and nurture amazingly diverse agricultural systems. Over centuries, people across the globe learned how to select and breed locally adapted plants and animals. They domesticated an amazing array of wild ancestors, and also learned to use and steward many wild species. Over the past century, industrialization and globalization have connected us in many ways. Unfortunately, a tremendous amount of agricultural biodiversity has been lost in the process.

According to Slow Food USA,

The global food system is becoming increasingly homogenized in a way that’s unhealthy for people and the environment, disconnecting us from our cultural food traditions, and presenting a serious threat to the future of our food supply.

Of the fifty thousand edible plant species in the world, three of them (rice, corn, and wheat) are responsible for over sixty percent of the world’s caloric intake, which leaves us all vulnerable. Rich genetic diversity is crucial to food security. Not only will global climate change necessitate an unpredictable new set of phenotypes, but a shallow gene pool is less able to be resilient in the face of new viruses and pests.

The biodiversity in the United States was once rich but due to the narrow range of plants and animals that suit the needs of industrial agriculture, it is increasingly difficult for biodiverse farmers and producers to grow and find a market for their products.

To address this critical problem, Slow Food USA has established its own Ark of Taste and Presidia projects. Slow Food promotes many regional and chapter preservation projects that celebrate, support, and rebuild food culture and agriculture.

An interesting film on this topic is Seed Hunter, which was shown in Utah in 2011. You can watch the trailer here.

Slow Food Utah supports biodiversity preservation project locally, including microgrants for preservation efforts and local seed swaps of saved and heirloom varieties.