Even Europeans care about agricultural biodiversity

Front page news on the International Herald Tribune’s Europe edition this morning, a long article about the biodiversity being preserved, on the very edges of illegality, in the home gardens of Italy. It’s a good survey of some of the human stories that lie behind statistics of genetic erosion and homilies on policies. I particularly liked the writer’s description of Professor Valeria Negri, a leading light in efforts to study personal efforts to preserve crop diversity as “a plant scientist … who takes in orphaned seeds and raises them behind her home, the way a pet lover might take in stray dogs”.1

Coincidentally, or not, there’s a meeting today on the draft European Directive on Conservation Varieties, taking place at the Centro di Cultura e Civiltà Contadina Biblioteca Internazionale “La Vigna”, in Vicenza, near Venice. They’ll be discussing the opportunities and limits to the draft, and among the speakers will be Guy Kastler, who addressed the Governing Body of the “Seed Treaty” last week. Many other participants too, including some stars of Italian efforts to conserve, document and promote the kind of diversity that gardeners and small farmers find most valuable.

I couldn’t be there (and in any case I am deemed to know nothing about policy); if I were, I would be saying what I have always said about this daft directive. We don’t need yet more legislation, which in any case would restrict varieties to confined geographic areas. We need freedom to market whatever varieties and diversity suit people best, as long as quantities of individual packages at all stages do not exceed a low level that could not possibly be of interest to the “buy once use once” mentality of industrial food production.

  1. Declaration of interest: I was involved in the press conference that resulted in the story. []

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