The terms endangered and extinct are most commonly applied to animal species, particularly as human activities encroach on wildlife habitats worldwide. But the global human population explosion over the past few centuries has also wreaked havoc on human nutrition, decreasing food diversity and threatening the global food supply and our environment in general.
Food journalist Dan Saladino spent over 10 years researching at-risk foods and food cultures, and his discoveries about the dangerous consequences of decreased food diversity are outlined in Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them. This decline in diversity isn’t necessarily visible to consumers now that food is shipped all over the world, seemingly providing more variety to many of our diets. However, in order to feed an ever-increasing population, major food crops such as rice, wheat and corn have become more and more homogeneous, making them more susceptible to disease and less nutritious.
Saladino traverses the globe to find out what scientists, conservationists and food experts are doing to dial back the increasing sameness in our diets. His journalistic skills are key as he interviews a wide range of people, from food corporation executives and government officials to botanists and farmers. Divided into 10 parts about topics such as cereals, vegetables, meat and fruit, each section covers food from many locations around the world, such as bere barley from Orkney, Scotland, and the Kayinja banana from Uganda. A map key in the front of the book pinpoints each setting, providing geographical context.
Fascinating and extremely well written, Eating to Extinction combines comprehensive history with science, culture and geography. At 464 pages, it’s a lengthy tome that undoubtedly could have been much longer, as it just scratches the surface regarding the number of foodstuffs affected by diminishing biodiversity. Saladino raises a serious issue that needs to be addressed with global urgency and cooperation.