We’ve always been partial to a handful of particularly delicious food crops, but as agriculture has developed we’ve discovered ways to make better and better versions of these handful of plants we already liked. There’s no specific point where we decided not to pursue biodiversity. Rather, as we found ways to make a handful of crops more and more efficient and we found ways to grow them on a larger and larger scale, we just sort of slowly stopped investing in other crops. I mean, if you can grow massive amounts of everybody’s favorite super-sweet apple the red delicious, why bother with many other types of apple? As far as a timeline goes, you and tie the birth of industrialized agriculture (and a subsequent gradual drop in biodiversity) to the Industrial Revolution in general — late 18th and early 19th centuries. For an excellent read about plants and our relationship with them, check out Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire”.
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