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6 foods we could lose in an outbreak

Feb. 15, 2010, 1:26 p.m.
Weak foods leave empty plates

Photo: Jupiter Images

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Weak foods leave empty plates

The modern food industry likes consistency. Modern food and agricultural corporations operate on a huge scale, and that's where consistency matters. When it comes to the crops and animals that we eat, consistency means the variety gets the short straw — instead of growing multiple varieties of potatoes, for example, the industry relies on one or two primary strains. The few strains that are grown are susceptible to certain kinds of disease, and the results can be disastrous.

The Irish Potato Famine was caused by a disease called potato blight that swept through Ireland's farms, hitting the single strain of potatoes grown by most farmers. Up until the 1960s, the most popular banana in the world ate was the Gros Michel. It was all but wiped out by a fungal disease when we were forced to switch to the Cavendish.

It could happen again with a lot of different foods, and we don't need to lose a crop or animal for it to be lost to an outbreak. The Gros Michel didn't completely disappear, but it was wiped out enough for it to no longer be a commercially viable food. Here are six foods that we could conceivably lose in a disease outbreak. (Text: Shea Gunther)