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Is Zucchini at Risk of Going Extinct?

According to a recent study published in the journal Plants, People, Planet, 13 different vegetable species have a moderate risk of becoming extinct, if action isn’t taken. When researchers studied 16 wild relatives of the gourd family, including zucchini, squash and pumpkin, they found that 13 were “medium conservation priority” due to being inadequately protected and lacking representation in gene banks.

zucchini

Study author Colin Khoury explained, “The worrying truth is that wild plants are in bad shape. Some estimates have at least 25% of them disappearing this century from a combination of habitat destruction, over-harvesting, climate change, pollution, invasive species and more.”

A previous study brought to light the excessive rate of plant extinction. Results showed that for the past 250 years, on average, 2.3 plant species have become extinct each year. This is quicker than the rate of normal species turnover.

According to Khoury, wild crops are such a sought-after source for genetic variation that in order to preserve them, there needs to be more conservation work. “If these species become extinct, we will likely never know what value they could have had for productivity, human health and sustainability,” he said.

Gourd vegetables aren’t the only produce at risk of becoming extinct. The Cavendish variety of banana is poised to be struck down by an insidious fungus that has infected soil in Australia, Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Americas. In an effort to maintain this variety, researchers have begun to edit its genome. Producers are aiming at a genetically altered plant able to pass regulators, which happened earlier in the U.S. It is not surprising that without diversity any type of crop may be vulnerable; however, what appears to be progress with genetic engineering may actually be a step backward in terms of health.

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