Corn on the cob, in a variety of colours
Maize diversity. Photo: Xochiquetzal Fonseca / CIMMYT, Flickr.

It is hard to comprehend the fact that out of more than 5000 crops used for food throughout history only 12, along with five animal species, provide 75% of the world’s food today. And only three crops – maize, rice and wheat – provide more than a half of all the world’s calories from plants. No wonder our food system is at risk of breaking down.

A number of new initiatives are emerging to try to change the situation. Seed banks, plant-breeding programs, and organizations promoting crop diversity are part of piecemeal efforts to expand the varieties of foods in an increasingly unified and globalized food chain. These efforts have the potential to expand access to more nutritious food, to protect against crop diseases, and to explore the cultivation of native crops that may be more suitable to given local growing conditions.

Source: FAO Committee on World Food Security