If you think there are plenty of choices and variety in the seed catalogs you shop from for growing your own food, you’re in for a big surprise. Today we have very limited choices in fruits and vegetables than were available just 80 years ago. In fact, the diversity has declined to alarming proportions. There is a huge need to reverse this issue right away or genetic diversity will become extinct. It’s not enough to depend on specialists to select and submit seed to seed banks. It isn’t good to leave plant breeding to the specialists, that’s how companies like Monsanto grew into monsters. Nor is it wise to let officials take care of the issue. We all need to do something to turn the downward spiral around, because the future of food depends on it.
Did you know that anyone can create new varieties of fruits and vegetables, or pretty flowers and drought tolerant shrubs? Genetic diversity in cultivated plants is just as important as it is in the wild. It’s part of restoring and protecting our environment. The mass exodus from living off the land to working for a paycheck in the city has no doubt greatly affected genetic diversity in agriculture and backyard gardens. Everyone got so specialized they sort of developed tunnel vision. In the past, many a backyard gardener dabbled in plant breeding, whether it was creating a coveted new prize winning rose, or finding a strain of more climate tolerant type of snap pea.
Here’s How Bad It Really Is
As you can see in the graphic above, alarming is how it really is. Of course, if you live in an apartment in the city having a place to breed new fruits and vegetables will prove challenging. There are plenty of suburbanites who do have the space, as there are those living farther away from big cities. However, an urban garden on vacant property or a roof top can just as easily be a breeding grounds engaged in protecting agricultural diversity as the extra lot in the burbs, or the back 40 in a rural setting. It’s all about selection for certain desired traits and learning how to cross those that have what you want, or preserving that one specimen and reversing it to an open pollinating state.
The thing is – what you perceive as rare and unusual today is nothing compared to what used to be.
How Do You Get Started?
If you’ve never bred plants before, you’ll need to study up on the process. It’s not impossible, or something that requires a degree from a university to accomplish. Once upon a time gardeners just dove in and dabbled. Thank goodness they did too, or we would have no ‘heirloom vegetables’. It’s overdue for us to dabble again. You learn as you go, but to succeed you will need to love plants and growing, not to mention an ongoing project. It requires a great deal of patience.
The world needs a big influx of public plant breeding – without government funding. That’s how this situation came about. That’s how we came to have GMOs polluting our environment and food supply.
Start Here to Create Change:
- Rural Advancement Foundation Intl
- Use Them or Loose Them (United Nations)
- Plant Breeding As A Hobby (Univ. of Illinois Center for Agriculture)
- Plant Breeding At Home (Tips from Thompson & Morgan)
- Breeding Organic Vegetables (NE Organic Farming Assoc. of NY)
There’s a lot more information available than that. Just ask Google, and they’ll lead you where you need to go. Do a search on Amazon, and you’ll find books to help you get started.
The important thing is to stop leaving the future of food to people with narrow vision and a bigger concern for profit margins and government funding than they are genetic diversity in agriculture.