The future beckons

by Luigi Guarino on December 6, 2012

So let me get this right. In addition to Crops for the Future the International Organization and Crops for the Future the Research Centre, there is also Plants for a Future the, what is it, the Database? And, now, Plants for the Future, the European Technology Platform. Though I suspect this last has nothing to do with neglected and underutilized plants, unlike the others. Anyway, that’s all by way of introduction to the forthcoming “Crops for the XXI Century,” the International Seminar. Which is indeed mainly in the future. I mean the XXI century. Well, also the seminar, though not by much. It does sound like fun, not least because lots of old friends are going to be there, so it’s a pity we can’t be there, but hopefully one (or more) of them will tell us how it all went. Once it’s in the past. The seminar, not the XXI century.

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Dave Wood December 9, 2012 at 10:20 am

Interesting to read Pat Mooney’s abstract for this week’s Córdoba meeting (Crops for the XXI Century). He says:
`Chief among these initiatives will be a massive diversification in both crop species and varieties bred, nurtured and exchanged by peasants around the world. There are roughly 2,000,000 peasant varieties in the world’s gene banks today covering around 7000 species. The most urgent task to meet climate chaos is to get the seeds back in the hands of peasants and to clear away the regulatory and market barriers – including intellectual-property barriers – that prevent peasant innovation.’

It is not often I agree with Pat (and I don’t about IPP – irrelevant for peasant farmers) but there is a great future for getting varieties back in the hands of farmers. In my 1991 review `Options for Change’ I made a similar point: `Recommendation: The direct use of land races for low-input conditions across countries, throughout regions and between continents should be strongly encouraged. Information available from within the CGIAR on land race evaluation would greatly facilitate this.’

I first came across the idea in: Carr, S.J. 1989 Technology for Small-Scale Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa: Experience with Food Production in Five Major Ecological Zones. World Bank Technical Papers No. 109, pp. xiii, 106. Carr argues for:
‘…the development of a greater awareness of the potential for indigenous material and the possibilities that exist for moving locally developed cultivars to other comparable areas. Thousands of local cultivars have been selected over long periods of time but many are confined to small geographical areas…. As conditions change in a particular area as a result of population increase, soil fertility decline, new pest outbreak or changes in rainfall pattern, there are often opportunities to introduce locally selected material from elsewhere which has features which are adapted to the new environment…. There has been a tendency to under-rate the value of traditional cultivars…’
This is spot on.

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