JANUARY 26, 2008: A staggering 98% of vegetable varieties have disappeared over the last100 years and EU regulations are set to speed this decline.
So claims Garden Organic, the leading organic growing charity that runs the world-renowned Heritage Seed Library, which is leading the battle to conserve and make available varieties of vegetables that are rapidly disappearing. The organisation, which has saved 800 types of vegetable from the verge of extinction, said that, if more isn’t done to save other varieties, the future of our food could be under threat.Amongst those vegetables saved by the HSL is a rare lettuce discovered in Kent and a bean variety given to a British Colonel by a French girl who smuggled the seeds out of a top secret plant breeding centre in her stocking tops, during the Second World War. Hundreds of traditional vegetable varieties like this one are facing extinction due to EU regulations, which ban the sale of seeds unless the variety is registered on a national or EU list – a costly and time-consuming process. A century ago our diet was far more varied but these regulations, combined with commercial pressures, mean that today 95% of the vegetables we eat come from just 20 species.But Garden Organic argues that having different varieties available is crucial to our survival and the future of our food. “Multiple varieties are imperative to protecting the food security of the nation, both now and in the future,” said Bob Sherman, director of gardens and gardening at Garden Organic. “In the simplest terms, multiple varieties offer the world safety in numbers. As the climate changes and new pests and diseases survive, we need a diversity of plants in case one of our main crops is affected. All these different varieties need to continue to grow in order for them to evolve with our changing world.”* See more: www.gardenorganic.org.uk