Bananas, avocados, and other beloved foods that may go extinct soon
When someone mentions the word "extinction," dinosaurs and dodo birds likely come to mind. The truth, however, is that some species facing the gravest and most-immediate risk are not animals but plants. Many of those plants are used to make the food that billions of people depend on for the bulk of their daily caloric intake. In other cases, the endangered plants are used to make foods that are not as crucial but just as hard to imagine never smelling, touching, or tasting ever again.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the planet's population is expected to grow by one-third by 2050, and agricultural production will have to increase by 60% to meet that ballooning demand. The problem is that the world's farms will have to undergo radical changes in design and strategy if they'll grow enough crops to feed all those people. That's largely because of climate change. While global warming has long been associated with melting ice and rising seas, one of the most-dangerous potential consequences is the effect a warming planet is likely to have on global food security.
"More extreme weather events and an increased unpredictability of weather patterns have already made an impact on agriculture and food security, leading to production reductions and lower incomes in vulnerable areas,” according to the IAEA.
Because of that, as well as some issues not directly related to climate change, you might be wrapping up your relationship with some of your favorite foods, even if you don't know it. As the global agriculture industry feels the heat of a changing planet, it will have to adapt to a world that is far less hospitable to the food currently on the market. From fruits, sweets, and condiments to the crops that the multitudes depend on every day to live, these foods are the ones you should want to enjoy now, as they might not be here forever.
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It's hard to imagine a world without bananas, but planet already suffered one banana extinction and may be drifting dangerously close to another. Before 1965, people ate a type of banana called Gros Michel, a different species than the bananas we know today, which was wiped out by disease. Today, a different disease called Tropical Race 4 is threatening the survival of the modern banana, which is a species called Cavendish.
The main ingredient in guacamole, avocados are among the trendiest and most popular foods in the country. More than 80% of U.S.-grown avocados come from California, which recently emerged from a series of historic droughts. Global warming is making droughts both more intense and more frequent—and it takes 74 gallons of water to grow a single pound of avocados, compared with 10.8 for tomatoes.
Also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are versatile in their whole form, but when pureed, they become the delicious and dip-able hummus—for the time being, at least. Chickpeas are suffering the same fate as avocados, although they're grown mostly in the Middle East, not California. It takes a full 76 gallons of water to produce a single 15-ounce can of chickpeas.
They associate global warming with more frequent and more intense drought, storms, rain, and fires, but for even the most ardent climate change skeptics, losing chocolate might be a bridge too far. That unimaginable outcome could be a reality in 40 years. Cacao, which is the bean that makes chocolate possible, can only grow in a tiny sliver of rainforest on either side of the equator, and about half of the entire world's chocolate comes from just two countries: Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Thanks to rising temperatures, cacao's small and narrow home turf will not be able to support the bean as early as 2050.
Soybeans are one of the most-important foods in the world and one of the U.S.' biggest agricultural exports. For each day over 86 degrees Fahrenheit, however, soybean crop yields drop by 5%. Yields are expected to drop by 40% by the end of the century, according to reporting by the Independent.
There are over 50,000 species of edible plants on Earth, but just three crops make up 60% of all human caloric intake: rice, corn, and wheat. The Red List of Threatened Species, which tracks extinction risk for plants and animals, added two new species of wild wheat to the Red List in 2017. Wild wheat is crucial for long-term food security because humans use wild species to breed new traits into domestic varieties when things like disease, pests, or, in this case, climate change, threaten crops.
Like wheat, rice is also one of the Earth's big-three foods and it, too, is on the cusp of losing the genetic support of critical and necessary wild species. Also in 2017, the Red List added three species of wild rice to its tally of critically endangered species.
Although yams are not among the world's three most-important foods, they are a significant global crop—and one whose wild cousins are facing a threat greater than rice and wheat combined several times over. In 2017, 17 species of wild yams were added to the endangered Red List.
Corn, or maize, is not on the Red List, which is good news considering it's the third among the trifecta of the world's most-nutritionally important crops—and not just for people. Millions of acres of corn grown in the United States are used to feed animals, according to the USDA. The World Economic Forum reports that much of the cropland currently used to produce corn will not be suitable for growing in the coming decades because of climate change, even as experts expect demand to increase by 33%
In 2017 the Vintage News reported that Carménère, "a wine believed to be extinct for 150 years," had risen from the dead. It all started at a wine competition in 1994 when a judge thought something was off about the taste of a Chilean merlot and investigated the grape of origin. The "extinct" grape, it turns out, had just been hiding in plain sight and masquerading as common merlot. In Switzerland and other wine-producing countries, experts are scrambling to save several species of wine grapes that are nearing extinction, including the parent grape of Chardonnay and Riesling.2018 All rights reserved.