Could guacamole and vanilla ice cream disappear?
Notable agricultures as well as their wild cousins have jumped into the "Endangered" section and may go extinct in the near future
Is this really happening?
Unfortunately - yes! It's happening right now, on our watch and very possibly within our lifetime, as multiple studies are pointing out. Some of our most important food sources like potatoes, avocado and vanilla are well and truly endangered in this very moment.
Vanilla ice cream - Credit: Taste of home
The vanilla orchid, found throughout South and Central America is the most vulnerable since all of the 8 species in the region are either endangered or critically endangered. The wild cotton, the seeds of which have been an important source of protein and fibre in the region is also doing poorly. 92% of all wild cotton species are listed as critically endangered.
Credit: You matter
Then there's the lovely avocado, which in modern days accounts for a surprisingly big portion of our daily diet. The situation there is dire with three out of all five species been declared endangered. Not to be overdone, the wild potato is following suit with 23% of all species being nearly extinct.
The magnitude of the situation
The studies analysed 224 cultivated and wild-type cultures in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Those cultures were first cultivated and used for food by the ancient Mayan civilisation, but today they have high worldwide significance in our daily diet.
Important species of wild beans, pumpkins, certain chilli peppers and even some sub-types of tomatoes have been deemed threatened of extinction well within the current century, along with 35% of all other agricultures that have been studied.
Unseasonal weather killed those crops - Credit: FoodTank
With our still largely uncontrolled use of harmful pesticides, rising global temperatures and the ever increasing appearance of unseasonal weather patterns, the yields have been falling rapidly every year. Add to that the steady growth of the global population and the increased demand that goes with it, and the picture is looking pretty bleak.
Do we have a solution?
Worryingly, we don't have any real solution to this problem at the moment, but we may have a starting point for actions. The researches think that starting to cultivate some of those wild-type cultures and subsequently cross-breading them with already cultivated species might increase the overall plant resilience towards our changing climate. But that would put an even bigger risk for the wild-type cultures.
Cross-pollination might be a solution, but not a sustainable one - Credit: Gardeners path
It's a fine balance, but the first studies are well underway and the preliminary results already show some promise. 16 wild-type cultures have been cultivated by cross-pollination and have shown better resilience towards unseasonable weather and pests. Pumpkins that can withstand colder weather, potatoes that can deal with prolonged droughts and a sub-specie of corn with an increased yield have just started to emerge, but it's still early days and to speak about success now would be premature.
Famine is a real word
Invasive species, climate-migrating pests and increasing top-soil salinity would still be putting strains on our food production and those issues cannot be solved with a magic wand. Unfortunately, these factors are just piling up on top of the existing problems, making a rational decision for the future even harder.
Top-soil salinity is a bigger issue than previously thought - Credit: Parks&Rec
GMO is also pointed out as a possible solution for the cultivated species, but it's still a young scientific branch and we have a very limited ability to use gene editing, which probably won't be beneficial on wild-type cultures, since genetic diversity plays a major role in plants.
The science is clear, but so is the wave of disapproval among the people
And while we're concentrated on the current famines, like the one currently ongoing in Madagascar due to very unseasonal weather patterns, we're missing the major threat of future global famine. While the studies have been very comprehensive and have been peer-reviewed, they were footnotes in all of the major media, which concentrated on the possible future extinction of wild-type bananas, apples, prunes and ginger like it's no big deal. It is for the places where they are the biggest source of protein!
Food for a whole day in Madagascar right now! Heartbreaking!!! - Credit: AllAfrica
With this blatant disregard of the importance of such studies, we might as well be reaching for the very pest that is destroying our food sources as the sole source of protein in the foreseeable future. It's not pretty and judging by your comments - nobody wants that to happen. It's up to us to bring awareness and try to change our world for the better!