Episode 19: Losing Biodiversity, Losing Flavors

We can see the causes and effects of biodiversity loss all around us. Only one variety of banana or pineapple for sale in every grocery store. Or the miles and miles or corn and soy you pass as you drive the roads of Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. Or the windshield effect: that there are far fewer dead insects on our windshields as we drive those country roads. We are right now in what’s being called “a biodiversity crisis,” in terms of the number of species we are losing and the increasing pace at which that loss is happening. The primary driver of species loss is our global agriculture system — in other words, the way we grow our food. And as we lose those varieties and breeds of animals and plants, we don’t just lose their genetics, we lose their unique tastes and flavors, too.


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“When we’re losing varieties at a rapid rate, we’re losing a sense of who we are ancestrally across the globe, and we’re losing that sense of care and connection and belonging to diverse food lineages and legacies that I think help us to have a higher quality of life in the current moment.”

Rowen White

Founder & educational director, Sierra Seeds

Episode guests:

Preeti Simran Sethi

Preeti is a journalist, educator and speaker focused on the intersection of food, science and culture. She is the author of the 2015 book “Bread, Wine and Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love.”

Ricardo Salvador

Ricardo is an expert in sustainable agriculture practices and a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, where he is also director of the Food & Environment Program. 

Ryan Nebeker

Ryan is the policy and research analyst for FoodPrint. He holds an M.S. in Agriculture, Food and the Environment from The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Urvashi Rangan

Dr. Rangan is the chief science advisor for FoodPrint and a toxicologist and public health scientist with 20 years of experience studying the food system. She is a co-chair of Funders for Regenerative Agriculture and for many years led the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Rowen White

Rowen is a seed keeper-farmer and author from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne. She is the founder, educational director and lead mentor of Sierra Seeds, an innovative Indigenous seed bank and land-based educational organization, and the founder of the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network.

FoodPrint resources:

Outside resources mentioned in episode and beyond:

  • Read the study about Indigenous people’s land stewardship.
  • Read the report “Justly Biodiverse,” about how the loss of imperiled species and habitats particularly hurts low-income communities and communities of color, first and worst.