National Geographic Preview: Food Ark


A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them. – From Food Ark by Charles Siebert

Food security. It’s on everyone’s minds. From consumers asking about food safety, to farmers working hard to pay the bills and work with weather extremes, we are all affected by agriculture. Consumers look for affordable, available, and quality food. Famers respond to that demand, increase productivity, make a living, working with weather changes, and trying to acquaint consumers with their food sources. There are different opinions on where our food systems are headed, but what about preserving food varieties and heritage?

In the July issue of National Geographic, Charles Siebert discusses the Food Arkproject. Read an excerpt from his story below and share your thoughts questions and concerns. Be sure to pick up a copy of NG for the full story.

Photos and excerpt come from the July issue of the National Geographic magazine, available on newsstands June 28.

Most of us in the well-fed world give little thought to where our food comes from or how it’s grown. We steer our shopping carts down supermarket aisles without realizing that the apparent bounty is a shiny stage set held up by increasingly shaky scaffolding. We’ve been hearing for some time about the loss of flora and fauna in our rain forests. Very little, by contrast, is being said or done about the parallel erosion in the genetic diversity of the foods we eat.
Food varieties extinction is happening all over the world—and it’s happening fast. In the United States an estimated 90 percent of our historic fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished. Of the 7,000 apple varieties that were grown in the 1800s, fewer than a hundred remain. In the Philippines thousands of varieties of rice once thrived; now only up to a hundred are grown there. In China 90 percent of the wheat varieties cultivated just a century ago have disappeared. Experts estimate that we have lost more than half of the world’s food varieties over the past century. As for the 8,000 known livestock breeds, 1,600 are endangered or already extinct.

Farmers and Ranchers are all around us and have a large presence on Social Media. Find farmers in your area by following Twitter tags such as #ranchlife #agchat and #smallfarm. Also visit the Blogging for Agriculture page on Facebook for regular blog updates from farms and ranches. You can also follow my updates with the #AgProud tag on Twitter and I am Agriculture Proud page on Facebook.

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About Ryan Goodman (978 Articles)
Ryan Goodman lives in Helena, MT and comes from an Arkansas cattle ranching family. Since growing up on a family cow/calf and stocker-calf operation, he has spent the last several years learning about farming systems across the country. A graduate of Oklahoma State, Ryan is currently working on a Master's degree from the University of Tennessee. He works continuously to share his story of ranch life through community outreach and social media, all while encouraging others in agriculture to do the same.

3 Comments on National Geographic Preview: Food Ark

  1. I think the word crisis is interesting. I agree that food security is a top concern, but think that the point on crop diversity may have been oversimplified. If genetics weren’t performing well decades or centuries ago, who would want them on the farm? Reality is no farmer would but through advanced breeding, some companies are finding ways to get a lot of genetic diversity into high performing genetics. So today, I’d bet farmers are planting more diversity than 20 years ago.

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  2. except for the fact that the RAFI study Siebert relies upon has been discredited and recent studies show an increase in crop diversity in the twentieth century and his apple data is completely incorrect . . . to see the raw numbers that he misses check out: “Crop Diversity Report Card for the Twentieth Century: Diversity Bust or Diversity Boom?” at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1462917 and “Apple Diversity Report Card” at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1543336. Paul Heald, Allen Post Professor of Law, University of Georgia

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    • Thanks for the comment Paul and the links.

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