By Umberto Bacchi
ROME, June 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain's Prince Charles called on Wednesday for greater diversity in crop planting to feed a growing population in the face of global warming.
Access to a large pool of genetic information held by different plant varieties is key for scientists, who are racing to find crops capable of tolerating increasingly high temperatures, water shortages and dry conditions.
Three quarters of the world's plant genetic diversity has been lost since the 1900s, as farmers shift from local varieties to genetically uniform, high-yielding crop breeds, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Speaking in a video message in support of an international lobby group, Food Forever, Charles said the trend to grow fewer varieties was "profoundly alarming".
"With a reduced pool of genetic diversity at our disposal, it will become more difficult to produce abundant, tasty and nutritious food to feed an unsustainably growing population," said the heir to the British throne, who has long been a vocal environmental campaigner.
About 75 percent of the world's food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species, according to the FAO.
Food Forever is a partnership of organisations and advocates working to safeguard agricultural biodiversity. It was set up by the Netherlands and international NGO Crop Trust, of which Charles - a keen plantsman - is a patron.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.