Kirby Barth

Kirby Barth

Food Organizations Join Forces to Reintroduce Neglected Crops to Global Ecosystems

Contributing Author: Kirby Barth

Over the last century, government policies and large food producers have prioritized farming practices that grow crop varieties with high yields. Today, corn, wheat, and rice make up over 50 percent of plant-based nutrition. Out of 30,000 global edible plant species, only 30 species are used to feed people. Crop biodiversity is an important aspect of farming in order to protect against plant disease and to also provide balanced nutrition.

In response to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 outlined by the United Nations, the Crop Trust launched The Food Forever Initiative as a way to highlight the importance of crop and livestock diversity. Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, says, “Maintaining agricultural biodiversity is fundamental for our survival as a species, yet has seldom made it to major international agreements broader than its immediate arena.” The Crop Trust is one of 16 partner organizations to join the Lexicon of Sustainability in launching the Rediscovered Food Initiative (RFI), a campaign to raise awareness about crop diversity.

An estimated 100,000 global plant varieties are endangered today. Extreme weather events, over-exploitation of ecosystems, habitat loss, and a lack of public awareness continue to threaten plant biodiversity. Conservation techniques such as seed banks and seed exchanges play an important role in preserving heirloom varieties of important food crops. The Rediscovered Food Initiative is helping save crop diversity through digital storytelling and educational programming for farmers and consumers.

Today, there are more than 1,700 known seed banks, collaboratives, and exchanges around the world promoting the importance of crop biodiversity. Danielle Gould, founder of Food+Tech Connect, and Mike Lee, founder of The Future Market, realized that public interest in sustainable farming and eating has grown in the last 20 years, but interest in genetic biodiversity does not have the attention it deserves. Food+Tech Connect devoted an editorial campaign to celebrate entrepreneurs, farmers, and researchers who value and promote biodiversity in food. The Future Market also published a deep dive report on biodiversity and how it impacts food producers and consumers.

Other organizations that promote saving crop diversity through initiatives or seeds banks include the Crop Trust’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), The World Vegetable Center, and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.

Kirby is a passionate food researcher and a former Fellow on the Food Tank team. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2016 with a degree in Anthropology, and minors in Psychology and Spanish. After writing her undergraduate thesis about food culture in Seville, Spain, one of her favorite places on earth, she has continued to pursue learning more about food culture in everyday life. She organizes food-themed events for Atlas Obscura Society Chicago, and spends her free time volunteering, rock climbing, traveling, and biking. She’s especially interested in reducing food waste and solving hunger and malnutrition.


Feature Image Courtesy of Shutterstock Photographer tescha555

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