Farming Our Way to Extinction
Unlike our forebears, we don’t eat a large variety of plants.
Whereas we use to forage and eat 6,000 different types of plant species, three quarters (75%) of our modern calories come from nine plants; cane (sugar), beets (mainly sugar), palm (oil), soy, barley, potato, maize, wheat, and rice.
“There are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world yet fewer than 20 species now provide 90% of our food.”
It is possible there are 300,000 plant species we could eat. We use the few grains that we do because of their dull sex lives that require only the wind to pollinate them.
What once was a multitude of grains we dined on are now a handful. With maize, rice, and wheat making up 90 percent of our calories, we are playing a risky game with the world’s larder. If some disease or climate disaster caused one or more of these grains not to deliver, the world population would be in trouble.
Unlike in the past, seeds are a highly controlled commodity.
Just four companies control half the world’s seeds. The seeds are genetically modified, and farmers in third world countries are being forced to use them, sometimes with disastrous results. The seeds don’t grow like the company said they would, or the farmer can’t afford the expensive fertilizer or pesticide for that particular crop. They have to sign legal documents that they won’t save any seed for planting future crops, guaranteeing they have to come back to the conglomerate to buy their seed. ChemChina, Limagrain, Corteva, and Bayer are the major culprits.
It used to be that seeds were distributed by the U.S. government and it encouraged farmers to save and trade their seed, creating a biodiverse universe of seed crops. The seed industry lobbied the government to stop this practice in 1924. Since then, lobbying and neoliberal policies of allowing corporations to do whatever they want to turn a profit, have destroyed seed biodiversity.
Climate change makes the lack of diversity in seeds dangerous.
Agriculture is not ready for the tsunami of climate change and its challenges. A handful of genetically…