The National Geographic published a stunning photo series as part of a feature article called “Food Ark” in July 2011, intended to demonstrate the dwindling diversity of foods and plants not only in our culinary repertoire, but also in our ecosystems and habitats. The following is a thought-provoking infographic, and many varieties of potatoes you’ve likely never seen! Some great food for thought…
Unlike the handful of varieties in U.S. markets, potatoes in Peru and Bolivia—the species’ geographic center of origin—come in thousands of colors and shapes. They are so varied in flavor and nutrition that a whole diet can be built around them.
Ashes of the Soul
Strong Morning Frost
Black and White Spiral
Guinea Pig Fetus
Whip Made of Dry Animal Skin
High Altitude Flower
Feet of the Lequecho Bird
Makes the Daughter-in-Law Cry
High Mountain Village
(The following images and text are from http://uliwestphal.de/lycopersicum.html)
Since the dawn of agriculture we have been actively engaged in a symbiotic relationship with the living world. In this process we have shaped and transformed a broad number of organisms towards our needs, while at the same time promoting their survival and geographic range. Through selective breeding and pollination we have created a seemingly infinite variety of breeds and cultivars from the wild ancestors of the now domesticated plants and animals. Since the industrialization of agriculture our focus has shifted on only a few novel, high yielding, ‘good looking’, uniform and predictable breeds and cultivars. This shift has led to the loss, displacement and mass-extinction of traditional livestock and crop varieties. A vast majority of all varieties ever developed by humans have already become extinct within the last 50 years. Without commercial interest, the remainder of our agricultural heritage may only survive in seed vaults, smallholder farms or in our backyards. Yet, its genetic plasticity and adaptability will be of utmost importance for the resilience and security of our global future food supply. With it we not only loose genetic diversity, but a living cultural and culinary heritage.
Lycopersicum is the first of a series of visual archives that will display the mind boggling diversity of agricultural cultivars. The work is a logic extension of the Mutatoproject, which focuses on the suppression of morphological diversity in our industrial food system. The title ‘Lycopersicum’ is part of the biological term for the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), thus this first series solely focuses on tomato-cultivars. Other species will follow in the near future.
To see each tomato close up, check out the Lycopersicum Gallery.
Having looked at these photos, what comes to mind? Does it start to seem fishy that a grocery store generally carries only ONE variety of carrot, or a SINGLE type of cucumber? My work with Navdanya in 2010 arose in part out of a fascination with the organization’s attempt to promote species diversity and their creation of community-led seed saving initiatives and seed banks. On the Bija Vidyapeeth farm, over 500 varieties of rice were being grown and saved for seed – only a fraction of what was once grown in India! Here in Canada, Seeds of Diversity is leading excellent community-based initiatives to store and save unique, native, and heritage varieties of seed, encouraging individuals to grow and save seeds in a decentralized and citizen-driven biodiversity conservation movement that spans the country.
But it’s not only about growing! Each of us eats, and has a responsibility to learn and understand the impact our food choices have on the environment and on future generations. How can we grow AND eat heterogenously to support ongoing species diversity?
What is your practise?