How many rice varieties are we eating?

It’s weird – it might feel like we have more access to more diverse foods than ever. In our own lifetimes we’ve seen things pop up on the shelves that were never there. That’s very true. We transport food around the world with a click of a button now and the wealthier we get, the more we expand. It’s a major problem in itself but it also hides another one.⁠

Our global diet as a whole – what we all eat – is actually becoming more and more homogenized. Rice is a huge example of this: of the 90,000 varieties of rice stored in gene banks, only 40,000 are being cultivated, and perhaps no more than 12 can be found on your standard supermarket shelf. That’s not hard to check – next time you head to the grocery store, report back on how many rice varieties are packaged up there. ⁠

A few staple crops have become bigger and bigger across the world (like corn and soybeans) and regional ones have declined. Our diets are becoming increasingly similar. It’s worrying from multiple angles; sustainability, food security, biodiversity, culture and health.⁠

It’s become harder and harder to talk about lack of nutrition, obesity, and increased lifestyle diseases in our society but it is one of the results of this and the “Western” diet that has swept the globe the past couple of decades.⁠

Even more so than that though, relying on just a few crops is enormously dangerous. They’re far more vulnerable to pests, diseases and climate change effects. This is a huge topic (definitely checkout @iquitwaste for more) and for now – eat local. Find out what foods existed in your country 100 years ago. Look at Indigenous resources (ask!). Grow your own food wherever possible.⁠

Data: UN Environment