More Choice, Less Diversity

06 May 2008

The World Conservation Union is warning of a ‘global extinction crisis’, in part brought on by the disregard for the huge variety of foods available across the world by industrial food production practices, leading to an oversimplified human diet and pushing many indigenous animals to the point of extinction.

The conservation group stated that more than 40 percent of all the Earth’s species are now facing a very high risk of extinction and that one livestock breed has been wiped out each week for the past seven years. Today, a fifth of the world’s cattle, goats, poultry, pigs and horses are at risk of being permanently eradicated, and more than one third of all fish and just under a third of all reptiles and amphibians are threatened.

The rapidly diminishing diversity of livestock breeds is primarily attributed to the rapid uptake of mass-scale industrial livestock farming, which has tended to focus on breeding ‘high-output’ animals to meet the ever-increasing demand for dairy and meat foods. While many indigenous species aren’t able to meet these industry demands, they are often better equipped at dealing with diseases and local climatic extremes, which are seen as very important for the future.

In Vietnam, indigenous sow numbers fell from 72 percent of the total population in 1994 to just 26 percent in 2002. In Kenya, the indigenous Red Maasai sheep have all but disappeared following the introduction of the Dorper sheep.

While the choice available to consumers on the supermarket shelf may appear to have increased dramatically, the reality is that a growing numbers of these products are derived from an increasingly limited diversity of sources.

Food scientists warn that our human health is suffering as a direct result of this simplification of the food system and our diets. Modern-day health problems, such as obesity and diabetes, are attributed to an over-reliance on the carbohydrates, proteins and fats we get through grain and meat products.


World Conservation Union

Bess Mucke
[email protected]

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