It's more than eating a range of different proteins (e.g. kangaroo, fish, tofu & chicken), rainbow veggie plates (e.g red tomato, orange carrot, green beans, & yellow corn), & different cultural cuisines (e.g. British porridge for breakfast, Vietnamese Bahn Mi lunch, & Mexican tacos for dinner).
Given that agriculture is the main source of food in the world, the agri-food sector is by far the most diverse (& important) industry in the world.
I was first introduced to the concept of food diversity during high school home economics back in the mid 1990s: we had to plant a school veggie patch with 7 different tomatoes & 5 different lettuces. But the importance of food diversity was heightened to me in 2005: the year Florida's orange industry was first hit by "citrus greening disease". Basically the oranges are unable to ripen, they remain green & fall off the tree, due to a bacterial infection that ultimately kills the tree. Florida's orange sector used to produce >90% of the USA's orange juice oranges. But with nearly 80% of the state's farms now affected by this slow death disease, there is a major fight to save this USD $9b industry. Of course, part of the problem is the disease itself. But the flip side is the fact that Florida only grows 5 varieties of orange, all equally susceptible to citrus greening disease.
Lack of diversity is the Achilles heel for the food industry & made Florida's orange industry vulnerable to obliteration.
Clearly food diversity is a massive, epic, ginormous issue way Bigger-than-Ben-Hur.
In a stint as a taste-tester for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Queensland), I discovered how consumers play a huge role in moulding our food supply via their acceptance (or lack thereof). DAF-QLD were looking at which varieties of "wild" bananas consumers were willing to buy, thus preserving the phenotype & also diversifying banana types for sale. We tasted at least 12 different types of bananas, including the red fleshed banana with ugly skin that is 100% a foodgasm. Sadly, most consumers didn't like anything that didn't look like a cavendish with perfect skin.
It seems our stickiness for conformity could have an impact on the foods we love though. Simran Sethi, MBA explores how a lack of food diversity can lead to irreversible limitations on foods we love, & a loss in important elements of culture in her book, "Bread, wine and chocolate: a slow loss of the foods we love".
And now an important article this week by the The Guardian interviewing Dan Saladino on his new book "Eating to Extinction: The World's Rarest Foods & Why We Need to Save Them". According to Saladino, "Diversity matters for food security, our health, the planet’s health, for local economies, & to give us options for the future, the list goes on and on."
Please read this article. It highlights some very important angles on the way we SHOULD value food & agriculture, & how food diversity is essential for our longevity as humans.
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