Researchers say that small farmers hold the key to food diversity. After reviewing international census data, the team concluded that up to 75% of the seeds needed to produce the globe’s “diverse food crops” are held by small farmers. This is increasingly important, as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculates that up to 75% of the world’s plant genetic diversity has been lost in recent decades.

Chris Arsenault (@chrisarsenaul) reports for Reuters:

“Growers with farms of less than seven acres preserve diversity through “networks of seed and knowledge exchanges”, Karl Zimmerer, a Penn State University geography professor who led the research, told a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Friday.”

The FAO has offered this stunning figure: About 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species.

“The new research from 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America underlines the importance of supporting small farmers, particularly women, who are leading the way in preserving diversity in their use of seeds.”