Growing reliance on foreign crops threatens diversity

411250779d6200ef56ec93f9351bd6b4Countries increasingly rely on introduced plants for food and need to cooperate to protect crop diversity, a study has found. The study, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that awareness of the geographic origin of major food crops is shrinking, threatening conservation and breeding efforts.

Governments should spend more money and effort on joint research and conservation to protect both original crop species and their wild relatives, says lead author Colin Khoury, a researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia.

“We all need each other because there is no country that uses only native crop plants,” Khoury explains. “China, as the world’s biggest producer of peanut, should, for example, be interested in conservation in Brazil, where peanut crops [originally] come from.”

Nearly 70 per cent of the world’s crops are grown outside their country of origin, say the international team of biologists behind the study. So-called foreign crop use is particularly high on island nations, which can rely almost exclusively on introduced crops.

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