Shopping to Support Biodiversity

Biodiversity on the farm has taken a beating at the hands of modern, corporate agriculture. In the place of a deep roster of food plants and animals, the human race relies on a decimated few, which all too often totter along on chemical crutches.

Eight-six percent of apple varieties, over 6,000 in all, have become extinct since 1900. Ninety percent of chicken eggs in the United States are laid by the White Leghorn; 70 percent of our dairy herd is Holstein. Of all the varieties of potato once available, exactly four now make up 75 percent of the total crop, with the Russet Burbank—the McDonald’s french fry potato—dominant among these few.

We all need a broad range of nutrients for optimum health, and we
Need a wide variety of food to provide this.

It is not hard to see the potential for disaster in relying on so few, specific species for our food supply while wiping out the genetic base for resiliency in the face of trauma, disease, or climate change.

In his book Rain Forest in Your Kitchen, Martin Teitel not only tells of these and other disturbing facts about modern agriculture, but indicates a whole range of ways for the individual to do something about them. What he seeks is indicated by the book’s subtitle, “The Hidden Connection between Extinction and Your Supermarket.”

It is to the supermarket Teitel takes his reader for the effort to change.

Tieitel sees the ordinary supermarket as a giant voting booth. Here the consumer may follow the lead of the big corporations and buy standardized produce without concern for its high ecological cost. But Teitel shows how a few simple choices can send a loud, clear call to the retailers and producers that the current ways are neither acceptable not wanted.

Produce—fruits and vegetables—are Teitel’s number one weapon. This is because they are plant products that directly affect the genetic makeup and ecological viability of farming, and because supermarkets rely on them so heavily for profit. Between 21 and 27 percent of a typical supermarket’s slim profit margin comes from the produce section.

One of Teitel’s most helpful ideas is that we buy produce in season. This has a threefold benefit.

  1. Production of food crops in season is less expensive and does not export American food demands to other countries, where our buying power threatens the extinction of local crops.
  2. Peak-season produce tastes better, as a comparison between a fresh autumn apple and the watery produce of late winter will show.
  3. Finally, production in season permits the use of fewer chemicals, resulting in safer food.

It is better to turn your cart toward the frozen and canned-food sections of the supermarket in midwinter than to buy fresh produce flown in from other countries. Behind imported fresh produce lurks the potential for great damage to the planet’s genetic resources.

By Bill Sanders


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W7 years ago


Jessica Hydo
Jessica Hydo10 years ago

Does anyone here do their own canning? I plant as big of a garden as my landlady will allow. This year I froze 7 bags of chopped green peppers, grew about 40 pounnds of onions, another 40-50 of potatoes(I had a bumper crop this year), and canned over 100 jars of tomato products(whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, ketchup, chile sauce, salsa, tomato soup, etc..) . I did all of this without pesticides. All of my tomato plants alone cost less than 2 pounds of tomatoes from the store, and the rest of the seeds cost next to nothing. I'd rather pull a few weeds and have a 3 year supply of all of my spices than spend 4 bucks for a little sprig of them in a plastic clamshell.

Maresa Tedrick
Maresa T10 years ago

Another reason to participate in the "antique" seed programs that specialize in old varieties of produce...sadly, extinction is not just for animals.

Mike F.
Michael F10 years ago

I found this article rather disappointing. While it is well established that buying locally produced food is better for the environment, buying in-season food from your grocery store does not do as much for promoting biodiversity as say buying produce from your local farmer's market or planting your own garden for that matter. I think this article has more to do with consciously buying local food for taste, the environment, and possible bio-diversity gains abroad than shopping to support biodiversity.

Joy G.
Joy G10 years ago

I am beginning to truly understand the importance of biodiversity and "greenliving"

KJ Sims
KJ Sims10 years ago

i am thankful that my county supports a farmer's market 2 days a week at 3 locations and that 1 is within walking distance from our home. my family and i can enjoy guilt free food grown here, within the county. plus, the prices cannot be beat! i am proud of my daughter who stopped after school this past week and purchased some of our favorites instead of waiting for me to go and do the weekly stock-up. she has learned well.

Lacyleanne G.
Past Member 10 years ago

I buy at the localFarmer's Market every Friday all through the summer. It's great and good for you.

Patti Santangelo
Patricia S10 years ago

Buying local at a farmer's market or roadside stand supports your local economy with dollars that are usually spent in your area. I have found a book called "The Better World Shopper" that rates many companies in several areas. It has a website at
The motto on the back says "Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world that you want to create."
If you cannot grow your own, try to find a local co-op or a farmers that sells shares of produce, preferably organic in winter time for the next year. they usually fill up quickly.

Rosana Rosana
Rosana Rosana10 years ago

this is very useful information...

Megan Kordela
Megan Kordela10 years ago

My husband and I recently were members of CSA, recieving a box of sesonal, organic produce from a farm no more than 15 miles away once a week. We love it!