Nibbles: Threatened foods, Extreme weather, Fancy pix, Mooney video, Traditional diets, Untraditional diets,

4 Replies to “Nibbles: Threatened foods, Extreme weather, Fancy pix, Mooney video, Traditional diets, Untraditional diets,”

  1. Pat Mooney: This is the familiar attack on `multinational pesticide companies’ – although the example he gives is for herbicide. Tough luck, Pat, if the big boys export seed technology to developing countries competing with North America in crop exports (Brazil for soybean, India for cotton, Argentine for maize).
    He says that 3 multinational control 54% of global seed sales. So what? Most food is still produced from farm-saved seed rather than bought seed, especially in developing countries, so Mooney’s figures are meaningless. And what about the food from CGIAR varieties – free of patents and IPP?
    The other side of the coin is the damage that seed activism has done. How about Pat admitting to wrecking the global exchange of germplasm through the years-long RAFI biopiracy campaign and support to the failed FAO Seed Treaty? He (of course) gives Erna Bennett a pat on the back. But Erna was a genecologist, working on the local adaptation of wild populations. This was research of its time – 50 years ago – which had a sound and extensive scientific base – local populations became adapted to local conditions (including the massive constraints of coevolved local pests and pathogens).
    But local adaptation is a millstone round the neck of seed activists. The massive success of introduced crops shows that local adaptation if of lower significance than escaping pests and diseases: 70% of crop production in both Latin America and Africa is from introduced crops, not – without straining the meaning – locally adapted. `Wild’ genecology, where geneflow is constrained by restricted seed movement, is no model whatever for agriculture, which has routine trans-oceanic seed movement.
    But with their hatred of multinationals, suspicion of the CGIAR, and mistaken belief in local adaptation, seed activist are condemning farmers in the Third World to futile labour against pests, diseases and weeds in their attempts to grow `locally adapted’ crops. While this may be good for crop exports from North America to the megacities of the Third World it is of little benefit to peasant farmers and their livelihoods.
    Anyone funding the Gaia Foundation – responsible for this – has a lot to answer for.

  2. Dave,
    Could I persuade you to expand on your remark about RAFI’s (and now etc group) biopiracy campaign? I’ve only recently started paying attention to some of the background voices and wonder where you are coming from on the issue. If you could point me to some references/sources I’d really appreciate it.
    Many thanks

    1. Clem: We wrote a book chapter mentioning this (and there is lots more). `Biopiracy’ has wrecked the FAO Seed Treaty:

      “Charles (2001) then describes what went wrong: activists, specifically RAFI, fighting against the exploitation of: ‘cashpoor but gene-rich developing nations by gene-hungry multinational corporations.’ Unfortunately for global food security, depending as it does on the free movement of crop genetic resources, this activist campaign, searching for a slogan, came up with the word ‘biopiracy’. Things became worse for food security: the Indian activist Vandana Shiva joined the debate (Shiva, 1996).

      This high-profile and continual focus on the slogan of biopiracy and the apparent exploitation of plant varieties from developing countries by multinational countries produced an atmosphere of distrust in those countries that had hitherto freely provided samples. Developing countries were led to believe they were sitting on a genetic goldmine and in Charles’s (2001) words: ‘many decided to claim those treasures for themselves.’ No mention was made by NGOs (even if they understood the facts) of the massive interdependence of developing countries on past crop introduction for their present food security. The result of this campaign of sowing the seeds of distrust was inevitable: the former free movement of crop genetic resources was compromised and began to slow to a trickle (with the exception of the CGIAR institutes, who, although closely targeted by seed activists, carried on their essential work scarcely hampered by NGO activism).”

      D. Wood and J.M. Lenné (2011) Agrobiodiversity Conservation Policy: a ‘Tragedy of Errors’. Chapter 10 in “Agrobiodiversity Management for Food Security: A Critical Review”. CABI International, pp. 150-169.

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