More Varieties of Nonsense

Dave Killion — July 2, 2011

I have enjoyed National Geographic since as far back as I can remember, and the work of underwater photographer David Doubilet is a particular favourite. Sadly, I can hardly open an issue anymore without coming across something that makes me wince. The latest? Our Dwindling Food Variety

“As we’ve come to depend on a handful of commercial varieties of fruits and vegetables, thousands of heirloom varieties have disappeared. It’s hard to know exactly how many have been lost over the past century, but a study conducted in 1983 by the Rural Advancement Foundation International gave a clue to the scope of the problem. It compared USDA listings of seed varieties sold by commercial U.S. seed houses in 1903 with those in the U.S. National Seed Storage Laboratory in 1983. The survey, which included 66 crops, found that about 93 percent of the varieties had gone extinct. More up-to-date studies are needed.”

What kind of goofball comparison is that? What does the National Seed Storage Library have to do with anything?  I imagine if they were to compare the total number of seed varieties sold commercially in 1903 to the total number sold today, this graphic would look very, very different.


G` says

To be honest Dave, I’m not sure if you are stating an argument here or just an opinion – do you have any facts to back up why you think this is nonsense? What you quote does concede the limitation that a more up-to-date study is required – I don’t see what’s unreasonable about the quote.

— July 2, 2011

Shirley says

I don’t understand all the facets of this issue either….but I have a hunch it might be important. Food is certainly a scarce commodity and it is quite likely becoming scarcer. With companies like Monsanto, creating GM or hybrid (sterile) varieties and then putting patents on them, farmers can’t use their own grain to reseed, but are dependent on purchasing from them.

Have you ever wondered how it is that no tomato tastes like what you had as a kid. I have been searching for the perfect tomato for years…and in the process have become a bit of a seed saver. A lot of the food we buy has no viable seeds. I dont know…I think it is a bit ominous.

— July 3, 2011

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