The world is more connected now than ever before: You can have Facebook friends in Australia or watch dashcam videos of whatever crazy shit is happening on Russian roadways. The same phenomenon applies to our food as well: And not just because there’s a Thai restaurant down the block or because your avocados are imported from Mexico. According to recent research, the majority of crops grown all over the world have origins somewhere else on the globe.
A team of plant scientists led by Colin Khoury recently looked at the native origins of 151 crops from 23 different regions around the world and then compared that information to diet and food production data in 177 countries, encompassing over 98 percent of the world population. What they determined was that, worldwide, 69 percent of food supplies and farm production consisted of crops with foreign origins. “Cultures adopt foreign crops very quickly after coming into contact with them,” Khoury told NPR. “We've been connected globally for ages, and yet there's still change going on.”
To help visualize just how interconnected the world is when it comes to food, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, a group Khoury works with, organized the data into interactive maps and charts. First, a map shows what crops are native to which regions. Next, a chart allows you to explore which regions’ crops are consumed where. Finally, the second chart takes a similar look at the interconnectivity of global food production.
The researchers believe it speaks to just how interdependent the entire globe is when it comes to our food supply. “That means we need to start behaving as if we are interdependent,” said Cary Fowler, one of the paper’s authors.
And everyone should start thanking us here in the United States for the food that we’ve sent all over the world. Like Big Macs.