Researchers from the International Center of Tropical Agriculture have noticed that the global diet over the past 50 years has come to rely on a few main food types. The crops that have become popular over the last half a century include wheat, rice, maize, and potato. This means is that certain traditional African and Asian crops like sorghum, millet, rye, sweet potato, cassava, and yam have fallen by the wayside.
The CIAT report puts the changes down to the fact that the global population now eats more calories, protein, and fat than 50 years ago. It also means that the lack of diversity in a “standard globalized diet” now deprives people of certain micronutrients in addition to increasing the chances of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes amongst the global population.
As well as health issues, there are other inherent dangers of a planet that relies on just a few crops. It makes the global food markets more vulnerable, and increases the risk of a food crisis in the event of a drought, insects, or disease—all of which are expected to increase over the next few decades due to climate change.
“Healthier habits and the promise of on-going and future research aiming to make those major crops more nutritious may reduce health risks,” said the report. “But this won’t protect us against the risks of failure of the global food system. Only strong measures to boost the genetic diversity of the major crops and the conservation of locally grown, but currently neglected crops, will.”