A Threat to the Future of Food

26 Sep 2006

A high level group of scientists warns that mankind is taking a huge risk by failing to protect endangered wild food species. These experts note that the wild relatives of staple food crops play a crucial role in the world food supply and that urgent action is needed to reverse the number of disappearing species.

Sara Oldfield, director of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), stated that these species “are our insurance policy for the future so we can breed new varieties to cope with different conditions”. For example, a quarter of all wild potato species are predicted to die out within 50 years, which could make it more difficult for future plant breeders to ensure that commercial varieties can cope with pests, disease and changing climate.

More than 100,000 wild plant species are currently facing extinction because of habitat loss and climate change. The International Plant Genetics Resource Institute in Italy is about to release research to the effect that, in addition to the threat to potatoes, nearly a quarter of all peanut and cowpea species – key crops across the world – could become extinct by 2055.

Future changes in temperature and rainfall patterns attributed to global warming are expected to worsen the situation. BGCI has published an action plan to address the issue, calling for more protection of natural habitats, methods to assist plantlife in adapting to new conditions and greater efforts in cataloguing wild species in preserving their seeds and plants.

Source: The Guardian

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