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Narrowing our choices of fruit, vegetable varieties

July 15, 2011 |  8:00 am

It's accepted wisdom that we have lost a lot of great old varieties of most fruits and vegetables. But this graphic from National Geographic, comparing varieties available in a commercial seed catalog in 1893 with how many of those varieties are preserved in the National Seed Storage Laboratory in 1983, spells out exactly how many. Even for those who may be a bit numbed to the effects of industrial agriculture, it's pretty shocking. A couple of examples? Of 497 types of lettuce, only 36 remained; of 285 varieties of cucumbers, there were only 16. Granted, at the same time, there have been thousands of new varieties introduced. But it's still, as they say, food for thought.


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Image: National Geographic