September 06, 2017

07/09/2017: Inside the Global Crop Diversity Trust with Milling and Grain

by Rhiannon White, Managing Editor, Milling and Grain magazine

With a global population estimated to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, food production will have to increase by 50 percent over the next 30 years if we are to feed the planet sustainably

Curling and creeping their way around the other corner are climate change and associated temperature increases, rising sea levels, stronger and more frequent droughts and floods, as well as pest and disease outbreaks.

Professor Wenbin Wu (Editor Chinese edition of MAG), Janice Spencer (Trustee of Milling 4 Life), Dr Hannes Dempewolf (Senior Scientist and Head of Global Initiative at Crop Trust), Clifford Spencer (Goodwill Ambassador for NEPAD and Chairman of Milling4Life Charity), Darren Parris (Group President, Perendale Publishers), Rhiannon White (Managing Editor, Milling and Grain), Koen De Marteau (Director of Human Resources and Corporate Operations at Crop Trust), Tuti Tan (Events Manager for Milling and Grain), Tom Blacker (International Sales Director for Milling and Grain), Roger Gilbert (Publishers of Milling and Grain and CEO Perendale Publishers), and Brian Lainoff (Lead Partnership Coordinator for Crop Trust)
Image credit: Milling and Grain

So why might crop diversity be one of our most precious collective possessions?

The answer is simple. A fundamental way of us producing more food that is more nutritious, using less land with less water and energy, is if we improve plant productivity for both animal feed and human consumption.

And one of the ways we will achieve this is if we have an efficient and accessible global conservation system of all crop varieties in existence. As Lead Partnerships Coordinator for the Crop Trust, Brian Lainoff voiced to us, “We don’t assert that crop diversity is the only answer but we cannot forget that everything we do starts with a seed. Crop diversity is the raw material of agriculture, it’s the building blocks, and it’s the foundation.”

A report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that a one-degree increase in temperature would decrease agricultural output by two percent per decade. The wild relatives of our domesticated crops may hold the answers to climate change, be higher yielding, disease resistant, less environmentally corruptive or lead to nutrition enhancement.

So in recognising that every crop matters, we must also appreciate our international interdependency upon this system to work. Agriculture is both feeder and funder of all life in all countries, developed or not, and once the biodiversity of our crops is lost, it is lost forever.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust With rising populations, diminishing resources and breeding new varieties taking up to 10 years to produce, The Global Crop Diversity Trust’s mission “To ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide, forever” is more urgent and more important than ever.

Whilst worldwide, only 150 crops are cultivated on any significant scale, a recent study co-authored by the Crop Trust found that the planet’s food supply has grown increasingly dependent on only a few crop types over the past 50 years.

This makes our food supply vulnerable to climatic changes and makes us vulnerable to a non-nutritiously diverse diet. The potato famine in Ireland is perhaps one of recent history’s most poignant testaments to the vulnerability of planting only one crop variety.

Meanwhile, the loss of a crop variety is as irreversible as the extinction of an animal, therefore these factors alone place greater importance upon the conservation of the thousands of crop varieties. As we speak however, a staggering 20 percent of plant diversity is under threat from habitat degradation, invasive alien species and over-exploitation.

Mr Lainoff told us “Since 1950, China alone has lost an estimated 90 percent of rice varieties whilst since the 1900s in New York, we had 9,000 apples and now we have 1,000 varieties.” Nevertheless, Cierra Martin, from Crop Trust Communications and Partnerships expressed to us, “We must look forward, not back, and the way to do this is collecting crops and conserving them.”

Read the full article, HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine Milling and Grain
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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