Will our favorite foods go extinct? Recent research shows that several major issues are contributing to the agriculture crisis we are in facing here in America. 90% of crops grown in the United States, contributing $19 billion to our economy, are dependent on bees. California’s almond orchids, which span over 800,000 acres of land, need 1.6 million bee colonies in order to pollinate the state’s largest oversea agricultural export. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the ongoing, rapid loss of bees has caused “colony collapse disorder” [“the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen”]. EPA research first uncovered a threat to the bee population in the winter of 2006-2007, when beekeepers began to report a drop of 30-90% of beehives.
Since most plants are highly dependent on bees for pollination and survival, the life expectancy is also much shorter for plants now, too. What does this mean for us? Currently, a majority of our American farms will face extreme difficulties in producing the quantity and quality of their harvests that we have grown accustomed to. California is the agricultural center in America for fruits, vegetables and nuts. Nuts, beans and fruits are dependent on several gallons of water a day in order to germinate because they rely on subtropical or tropical climates. If we examine these areas on Earth, they are becoming more prone to droughts because of climate change. 99% of artichokes, 99% of walnuts, 97% of kiwis, 97% of plums, 95% of celery, 95% of garlic, 89% of cauliflower, 71% of spinach, and 69% of carrots all come from The Golden State. California’s climate and soil is so special, most of these crops are only able to grow there.
But just how much water intake are we talking? To list a few examples, you need 76 gallons of water per ounce of chickpeas, 72 gallons of water per pound of avocados (two avocados) and peanuts need 20-40 inches of rain. The recent drought, which is the worst it has been in 1,200 years, is starting to take a long-term effect.
Avocados, one of many highly demanded natural food products of our time, are predicted to be extinct between 2050 and 2080 due to the drought. Not only does the lack of water contribute to the decline in plant and fruit growth but also to the steady drop of numbers within the bee population.
The cocoa bean is estimated to only be around for about 40 years, but according to Inverse Science, scientists have a plan to lengthen its life expectancy using CRISPR, “the same gene-editing technology associated with creating “designer babies,” eradicating diseases, and bringing back the wooly mammoth.” To avoid a world without our favorite produce choices for thousands of years, researchers and agricultural scientists are getting inventive, working to create new genetically modified versions of food that may not be sustained naturally for much longer.
Illustration by Diana Branzan