Biodiversity, Food and Farming for a Healthy Planet

What does biodiversity have to do with the food we eat?

As agriculture developed around the world at different times, many peoples domesticated local plants and animals. Farmers grew plants and raised animals that were found locally; people ate what they grew. For example, in the Andean Mountains farmers began cultivating the potato 6,000 years ago near Lake Titicaca. A little after they started growing potatoes, around 4,000-5,000 years ago, Andean farmers domesticated the llama.

Did you know?
  • In the Andes in South America, some farming communities grow as many as 178 different types of potatoes?
  • Grapes have been cultivated for more than 8,000 years?

Archeologists, scientists that study ancient human civilisations, estimate that maize (or corn) was domesticated about 6,000-10,000 years ago in Mexico. Even so, maize is not the oldest cultivated plant in the world. Archeologists think rice cultivation began over 12,000 years ago in Indochina! Six thousand years later, farmers in the region started growing citrus fruits. Today, we eat diverse citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes.

If you lived 10,000 years ago, you would not have seen the same cows and cattle you see on farms today. Instead you would have seen their ancestor, the aurochs. Farmers in both India and the Fertile Crescent (now known as the Middle East) domesticated local aurochs around the same time.