Ninety percent of vegetable varieties have disappeared in the last century. Since only fifteen breeds of plants and eight animals are relied on so heavily for consumption, several upon several non-commercial varieties of plants and animals have gone extinct. More than seventy-five percent of the food consumed in the world comes from only twelve crops. Not only are those plants and animals gone, but also their precious genetics. “According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are currently losing an average of 2 domestic animal breeds each week, and half of all domestic animal breeds that existed in Europe in 1900 are now extinct. In the past fifteen years alone, the FAO has identified the extinction of 300 out of 6000 breeds worldwide, with another 1,350 in danger of extinction.”
Industrial agriculture is linked to the decline of livestock diversity. Mass-produced breeds are putting independent farmers out of business quickly and consequently causing the heirloom breeds to fade away. The factory-created livestock can not withstand the same conditions as heirloom breeds. These fragile creatures must be in climate-controlled rooms, with specific dietary and medicinal needs. You won’t see these cows roaming the countryside.
Plants are being bred for identical appearance and to withstand diseases and long journeys. The method of picking crops immaturely so that they will ripen in transport (without any water, nutrients, or sunshine) has resulted in a loss of protein, amino acids, minerals and phytochemicals. Traditional varieties are quickly being replaced by commercial creations, thus leading to the deaths of entire breeds. With each extinction of a plant species, we are losing distinct flavors, appearances, and textures. FAO estimates that seventy-five percent of the world’s genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been eliminated since 1900. The loss of biodiversity makes the remaining plants increasingly threatened to devastation caused by diseases or pests. One small problem now has the possibility to completely wipe out a crop.
If that wasn’t enough, industrial agriculture destroys the natural environment with untreated animal waste, chemicals, and soil erosion causing air, groundwater, and surface water pollution. Pesticides and chemicals leach into the ground, poisoning the nearby environment. The substances used by industrial farmers damage not only local ecosystems, but regional ones as well. The pollution caused by excessive use of chemical fertilizers and over-application of manure degrades waterways and kills aquatic organisms by depleting the oxygen content of the water.
Several farmers and people are working to preserve agricultural variety by raising heritage breeds of plants and animals. Heirloom plants are a fantastic method of trying new flavors and looks. Several people start gardens based on the memories of relatives or neighbors who had one and the incredible flavors of the plants. These heirloom breeds protect against losing more diversity in our food source, not to mention the health benefits. Organic gardens have increased vitamin and mineral content, and come with the satisfaction that you have accomplished growing this plant and have a sustainable food source in your own backyard.
– April Marcuzzo
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