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Foods in danger of extinction

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Riped Banana
Riped Banana

In December 2015, the scientific journal PLOS Patogens announced that a  very aggressive fungus called tropical race 4 (TR4) could erase from the face of the Earth one of the most popular and nutritious fruits in the world: the banana. TR4 is a potent mutation of the dreaded Panama disease, also called banana fusariosis, caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, which attacks the roots of some varieties of this plant. Specifically, the attack of the TR4 goes directly to the Cavendish variety, to which 99% of the bananas sold in developed countries belong. The practice of monoculture, or what is the same, the lack of diversity in this fruit species, can have disastrous consequences. Because once the TR4 arrives in a banana field, the only option is to eradicate all the plants and start over.

As for wine, it is dangerously marked by the weather. Probably in 2090 there will be no wines made with merlot, nor cabernet-sauvignon, nor chardonnay nor syrah, for climate change. “The vineyard is a perennial plant and is very affected by the climate, since it can not be planted every year,” says Iñaki García de Cortázar, an engineer at the National Institute of Agricultural Research of France. In the last thirty years, an advance of two weeks for flowering and one month for harvest has been detected in European vineyards . In addition, the composition of the grape has also changed: “In most French vineyards there has been an increase in sugar that corresponds to almost one degree of alcohol every ten years. At the same time they have lost between 0.5 and 1 g / l of acidity”, clarifies García de Cortázar. The problem is that only ten varieties cover 40% of the world vineyard and in some countries, such as New Zealand and China, only one occupies more than 80% of the surface of this crop. These varieties do not represent the biodiversity of the vine or “are those that best use water; they are only the most commercialized. “As new grapes are not tested, the consumer gets used to taking only the ones he knows. The solution is to study forgotten varieties to identify one that can adapt to future conditions.

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In general, the foodstuffs that are most likely to happen in the future are, on the one hand, very localized or highly specialized agricultural products, “because they will have less capacity for adaptation. This is the case of coffee, cocoa and tea, which have production areas with very specific climatic conditions, “says Iñaki García de Cortázar. But it also paints the wrong thing for those “crops in which almost only a variety is used, such as banana and kiwi, or a few, if the vine.” If a disease breaks out or an extreme and repetitive climate, it will be a disaster.

Rethink agriculture

Experts on biodiversity and threatened plant species work to adapt to future conditions. “The main thing is to rethink agriculture, get out of the super specialization of production to return to a diversification that allows to resist extreme situations, although it will be a costly change that can take a long time”, points out García de Cortázar, who thinks there are reasons to be alarmed. The emissions have to decrease in less than ten years if we do not want to reach the worst possible scenario. The CO2 that is now in the atmosphere is not the fruit only of our own emissions, but of those of our parents and grandparents. A molecule of CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a century. The future of crops will depend on what we do and decide as a society in the coming years. If we apply the objectives of the Paris Conference on Climate Change, we can stabilize the situation in 2050.”

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