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Food & Drink

Growing concern climate change will devastate plant diversity

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farming, gardening, agriculture and people concept - farmer holding potatoes at farm
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

Move over onions, step aside mushrooms — the humble spud has been voted America’s favorite vegetable.

A poll of 2,000 adults revealed that potatoes won the crown with 39% of respondents selecting it as their favorite veggie.

The other top vegetables for the nation also includes broccoli (31%), mushrooms (26%), spinach (25%) and onions (34%).

Also among the top 20 most beloved veggies were sweet potato (27%), cabbage (27%), peppers (27%), peas (23%) and, ironically, tomatoes (37%) – the fruit that often masquerades as a vegetable.

In fact, adults across the country love these greens so much that four in 10 (37%) couldn’t imagine not being able to buy staple fruits and veggies in their local store.

However, 28% have no idea plant diversity is in danger and that this might impact the future of their dinner plate.

The study, commissioned by kimchi brand, Jongga and conducted by OnePoll, also found 97% are worried about the effect climate change will have on plant diversity.

Experts at Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration, distribution, a seed exchange network, and educational programming estimate many hundreds of varieties of vegetables, once widely available as seed and produce, have disappeared.

And if this pattern continues, consumers could face a future lacking in plant biodiversity, putting some vegetables enjoyed today at risk.

“Increasing biodiversity is at the heart of our work to save and share open-pollinated varieties,” said Sara Straate, seed historian at Seed Savers Exchange. “The more people we can engage in becoming long-term seed stewards in their home, market, and community gardens, the greater the opportunity these varieties have to adapt to ever-changing environmental pressures.

"A lack of biodiversity," she continued, "can leave food production vulnerable to stress events – such as outbreaks of disease, pests, and climate change – which ultimately could impact the fruits and vegetables available to future generations.”

The study also found Americans are increasingly going green with their eating habits, with 67% eating more of their “five-a-day” now than they did five years ago.

With 27% of these respondents doing so because it’s better for the planet, while 46% want to do more for their health.

Out of the 18% who aren’t as green-minded and eating fewer veggies, more than a third (37%) said this is due to the lack of variety they see stocked on the shelves.

The research also found, of the meat and fish eaters of the country, seven in 10 already are, or plan on, adopting a more plant-based diet.

And 42% of those polled will incorporate fruits and vegetables into their meals at least nine times a week.

Americans aren’t just upping their intake of greens because of the positive nutritional benefits though, as 95% enjoy eating fruits and vegetables — meaning biodiversity challenges could be impactful for most if not all Americans in generations to come.

“As our intake of fruit and vegetables continues to rise, it’s paramount we begin raising awareness of the latest sustainability crisis,” said Jennifer Lee, head of global business unit, Daesang, representing Jongga. “Many see the food in their fridges as a never-ending resource, but sadly this is not the case. Shockingly, over the last century, 75% of plant diversity has been lost, with 95% of cabbage varieties disappearing from our plates.”

“Fermentation and preservation go hand-in-hand. It’s a technique that has been utilized by civilizations for centuries to preserve ingredients we rely on to make meals for our families, friends and communities, especially during times of hardship. But it is times of bounty that we must remain vigilant to the mission and make sure future generations enjoy robust biodiversity.”

TOP 20 FAVORITE VEGETABLES

  1. Potatoes
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Onions
  4. Lettuce
  5. Cucumber
  6. Carrots
  7. Broccoli
  8. Garlic
  9. Sweetcorn
  10. Green beans
  11. Peppers
  12. Cabbage
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Spinach
  16. Peas
  17. Cauliflower
  18. Celery
  19. Asparagus
  20. Olives

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