Peter D. Moore Division of Biosphere Sciences King's College London

Despite the great diversity of the earth's biota, a relatively small number of plants (some say between 7 and 30 species) are thought to account for the bulk of human nutrition. A recent analysis of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization data from 146 countries, however, reveals that the number of plant species exploited intensively by mankind is actually much larger than this. A total of 103 species were found to contribute substantially to the diet of the countries studied, and 75 of these were individually responsible for at least 5 percent of the nutritional supply of at least one of the countries involved in the survey. This broader base of human exploitation of plants still leaves much room for improvement and serves to emphasize the growing need for the conservation of genetic resources for future possible use.


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