Crop Diversity

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All major food crops, the staple crops grown and consumed by the vast majority of the world’s population, have their origins in the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Over the past 12,000 years, farmers selected and domesticated all major food crops on which humans depend today.

FAO estimates that 75 per cent of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000. The erosion of crop genetic diversity threatens food security and compromises our ability to adapt to climate change. To maintain pest and disease resistance in major food crops, or to develop desirable traits such as drought and heat tolerance or improved flavour, plant breeders require fresh infusions of genes that are found primarily on farms, in forests and fields of the global South. Sustainable agriculture and food production in all regions depends on a steady stream of new, exotic germplasm  (collections of genetic material) from traditional crops and their wild relatives.

Links and Resources

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2010). The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources. Retrieved from fao.org
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2010, 26 November). Crop biodiversity: use it or lose it. Retrieved from fao.org
  • Burke, M., Lobell, D. (2010). Food security and adaptation to climate change: what do we know? Lobell D, Burke M, (eds) Climate Change and Food Security: Adapting Agriculture to a Warmer World. (pp133–154). Retrieved from ocf.berkeley.edu
  • Millstone, E., & T., L. (2008). Chapter 21: Agricultural Biodiversity. The Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where, and Why. Berkley USA: University of California Press. (pp. 58-59). Retrieved from issuu.com

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