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Our Food Supply: Always In Season, Always At Risk

What price do we pay for fresh produce year-round? (Photo by Dean Hochman via Creative Commons)
What price do we pay for fresh produce year-round? (Photo by Dean Hochman via Creative Commons)

How having every kind of food year-round could one day – maybe now – imperil our food supply.

Once upon a time, our hungry ancestors would eat hundreds of different kinds of plants and animals in a single week.  Today, with huge scale global agriculture and super-dominant food crops, 80 percent of calories consumed by humans come from just twelve species.  We expect consistency, and we get it.  Familiar foods, year-round.  My guest today says we are tempting fate.  Eat a few species all the time, and if those go, you’re in trouble. This hour On Point, the peril in our narrow food supply. — Tom Ashbrook


Rob Dunn, author of the new book, “Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future.” Professor of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University. (@RobRDunn)

From Tom’s Reading List

WIRED: Humans Made the Banana Perfect—But Soon, It’ll Be Gone — “The more we heed our basic instincts for cheap sugar, salt, fat, and protein in whatever form we want it, whatever time of year we want it, the more we create a simple agricultural world and the more we will depend on the diversity of life with which that same agriculture competes on a finite planet. This book is the story of scientists racing to save the diversity of life in order to save our crops and in order to save us. It is the story of a puzzle we must solve. The ancient rules of life leave us relatively few ways to arrange the pieces.”

New York Times: Have a Banana. On Second Thought, Don’t. — “Dunn shows how we have been spared catastrophe by legions of unsung heroes and heroines working across a range of crops, from cassava to cocoa to rubber to wheat. Biological battle rarely makes headlines, though when it does it’s usually a story of spectacular failure involving bad biology and worse economics.”

New York Post: The very real threat that could rob you of your daily coffee fix — “This is just one takeaway from Dunn’s thoroughly frightening new book, which describes how the diversity of the foods we eat has dwindled as society has modernized. Thirty thousand years ago our ancestors regularly consumed hundreds of plant and animal species that varied with the seasons. If a bug hit one species, we could easily adapt and replace it with others. Not anymore.”

Read An Excerpt From “Never Out of Season”


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