Many of the same issues ecologists seek to understand in “natural” systems are equally applicable to agricultural and food systems. I recently collaborated with scientists at the Global Crop Diversity Trust and at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture to investigate how the diversity of global food supplies has changed over the past 50 years.
We found evidence that, at the country level, the diversity of crops contributing to diets has remained stable or increased over time. At the same time, there has been a fairly dramatic homogenization trend, such that countries are becoming more and more similar to each other in their diets.
Khoury, C., A.D. Bjorkman, H. Dempewolf, J. Ramirez-Villegas, L. Guarino, A. Jarvis, L. Rieseberg, P.C. Struik. 2014. Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111: 4001-4006. (open-access link)
We have continued to build on this study by conducting an assessment of the degree of interdependence among countries on plant genetic resources. This work was published as a research paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B and as a complementary policy brief in advance of the 6th meeting of the Governing Body of The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). There is a very nice blog post about the study here, as well as articles in the Washington Post, BBC, National Geographic, and NPR.
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