38TH EARTH DAY HIGHLIGHTS FOOD BIODIVERSITY
NEW ?RAFT? REPORT FINDS OVER 1,000 UNIQUE LIVESTOCK, VEGETABLES, FRUITS, FISH AND GAME AT RISK IN NORTH AMERICA
New York, NY ? Apr il 20, 2008 The Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance announces the first continent-wide analysis of at-risk food species and varieties in North America. More than 1,000 unique seeds, breeds, fruits, nuts, fish and game are currently threatened or endangered across the continent. The RAFT Alliance has not only identified which foods are vulnerable, but is calling for the restoration of regional food networks, farms, wildlands and waters to prevent such extinctions.
The list is included as an appendix to the groundbreaking new book, Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods, edited by Dr. Gary Nabhan, founder of RAFT. It will be released by Chelsea Green Publishing May 2008.
Both wild edibles and domesticated foods are imperiled by the homogenization and further industrialization of agriculture. Historically our food-getting activities have been the cause of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and at least 75 other foods. The RAFT survey of America’s endangered culinary treasures has determined that New England, the Gulf South, the Desert Southwest and the Pacific Northwest have particularly high numbers of traditional foods that are currently in danger of disappearing from our food system. Earth Day provides the opportunity to spread awareness about what is at stake when we start to lose biodiversity and examine how we might reverse some of the damage.
?We have finally begun to fathom just how many plants and animals historically used as food have been lost or are endangered,? says Dr. Nabhan. ?To renew America’s biodiversity, we must take stock of what we have squandered just as much as we must endeavor to take pleasure in the remaining sustainably-harvested species and associated foodways.? As success stories, Nabhan cites current efforts to recover several varieties of potatoes, beans, corns, chilies, abalone species, salmon stocks, heritage turkeys and rare breeds of sheep.
It is critical that we recognize the remarkable variety of foods unique to American regions and take steps to safeguard them and their related traditions. ?Each food species on earth represents a unique flavor, a community of growers, harvesters, and eaters. America’s agricultural diversity was once mirrored on our dinner plates, signifying vital local economies, landscapes and personal health.? says Makal? Faber Cullen, of Slow Food USA. ?In the past thirty years, we’ve seen that plate reduced to just one or two ingredients?to devastating effects. But this is changing. Chefs and home cooks in every state are promoting the recovery of endangered foods by creating delicious meals – from Stayman apple cobbler in Vermont to Buckeye chicken fricassee in North Carolina. Wherever farmers, fishermen, chefs, consumers and conservationists join forces, they can help keep these culinary treasures from slipping away.?
The RAFT list of endangered foods in North America includes 77 fish stocks, 18 shellfish, 26 game mammals, 107 apples, 126 corn varieties, 86 beans, 25 livestock breeds, and 23 poultry breeds. The new book Renewing America’s Food Traditions also profiles more than ninety heritage foods most at risk, detailing their folk histories, their causes of endangerment, the efforts to recover them, and includes historic recipes with which to savor them once they’ve been recovered.
Key implications of the RAFT List are:
1. That by focusing on the culinary and cultural importance of these foods to our common American heritage, efforts toward their conservation and use engage more constituencies than environmentalists alone, including fishers, hunters, farmers, foragers, chefs, historians and consumers.
2. That if food consumers have contributed to the loss of species or varieties in the past, they can also be engaged as a positive force in conservation and recovery for the future.
3. That regional networks of producers, chefs, journalists, food activists and conservationists can play critical roles in bringing many of these foods back to our tables, celebrations and festivals, thereby renewing the food traditions in their particular place or culture.
4. That eater-based conservation initiatives for a few heritage foods ? such as Navajo-Churro sheep, Makah Ozette potatoes and grass-fed Plains bison?can serve as models for recovery.
5. That while all species and varieties on the list should be recovered and their habitats restored, not all should be eaten in the immediate future, if ever within our lifetimes.
The RAFT Alliance was founded in 2004 by Slow Food USA, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Chefs Collaborative, Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University, Seed Savers Exchange, Native Seeds/SEARCH and the Cultural Conservancy. As an alliance of food, farming and environmental advocates, RAFT works to identify, restore and celebrate America’s biologically and culturally diverse food traditions through conservation, education, market recovery and regional networking.
Center for Sustainable Environments
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Slow Food USA
Makal? Faber Cullen
Director of Programs
Programs & Communications Manager
Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods, edited by Gary Paul Nabhan. Published by Chelsea Green. www.chelseagreen.com.
For producers of unique, endangered food products, visit www.localharvest.org/ark-of-taste.jsp and http://www.albc-usa.org/ cpl/wtchlist.html.