Saturday, September 19, 2009
spuds to us
Allowing big corporations to patent food crops always seemed like a bad idea to me since the GM seeds are designed to be sterile. Farmers buy the seeds, plant and care for the crops until the harvest without being able to save any of the seeds for the following season. It's just not the way humans have farmed for millenia and sounds not only wrong but dangerous.
Over the the course of our long history humans have relied on more than 10,000 different plant species for food. It's frightening to learn today there are barely 150 species under cultivation of which only 12 provide 80 percent of all of our food needs. Just four of them, rice, wheat, maize and potatoes, provide more than half of our energy requirements.
As markets became big global business, seed production and agriculture became more commercialized, and the old system of farmers saving their own seeds of a myriad different crops, has almost disappeared.
As a result variety is dwindling towards a vanishing point. China has lost 90 percent of the wheat varieties it had just 60 years ago. In the United States more than 90 percent of fruit tree and vegetable varieties found in farmers' fields at the beginning of the twentieth century are no longer there. Mexico has lost 80 percent of its corn varieties. India has lost 90 percent of its rice varieties.
It's kind of nice knowing the Quechua Indians high up in the mountains of Peru are being paid to maintain their diverse collection of rare potatoes. Along with 11 other communities around the world they are part of a major new initiative to ensure that the world has the options it might need to cope with future food crises.
Sometimes there's good news even if it's just small potaoes.