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Why food diversity must be on the menu

The Itanoní Antojeria y Tortilleria in Oaxaca, Mexico may seem like an ordinary restaurant, but it’s places like these that could be just what’s needed to reclaim diversity in our fields, and on our plates. The restaurant makes its tortillas from eight different maize varieties sourced directly from local farmers and stone-ground by the cooks.

Restaurants such as these – along with a growing assortment of similar initiatives, from farmers’ markets to box schemes and heritage seed-saving efforts – are an urgently needed antidote to the seemingly inexorable momentum towards standardisation and uniformity in farming over the past few decades.

Much of the food produced today is grown in monocultures – vast fields of a single crop – that make it easier to mechanise planting and harvesting, while meeting imperatives to maximise profits in competitive markets.

Supermarket demands for standardisation in shipping, packaging and display put a premium on produce that is uniform in shape and appearance. Producers are under pressure to focus on a small number of crop varieties that meet these criteria – those that do not are rejected.

Source: IIED

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