Underutilized biotechnologies?

The International Centre for Underutilized Crops (ICUC) has a position paper on the use of biotechnology to promote and develop neglected and underutilized species. You can download it here. The study concludes that some biotechnologies, eg tissue culture and microproagation, have proved effective in enhancing the use of neglected species, but that others, eg DNA fingerprinting for genetic diversity studies, have resulted in only limited practical benefits. The risks associated with applying biotechnologies include centralization, intellectual property protection and the formation of genetic bottlenecks.

“Oreo cookie cows” getting dunked?

Dutch Belted cows are also called “Oreo cookie cows” because of their three stripes. Introduced to the United States from Holland in 1840 by P.T. Barnum for use in his circus, they are now endangered, with a global herd of less than 1,000. So the SVF Foundation is collecting sperm, fertilized embryos, blood and tissue. You can read about it here: “Campbell’s Soup heiress Dorrance Hamilton established the foundation in 1998 on a property in Newport that includes the Swiss Village, a restored turn-of-the-century dairy farm, and part of Hammersmith Farm, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ childhood home.”

Coffee and a movie

I haven’t seen it yet, but the movie Black Gold promises to be a fascinating look at how coffee gets from tree to cup. Tadesse Meskala, head of the 74,000-strong Ethiopian Oromia coffee co-operative, is apparently the star of the piece. There are a couple of books out at the moment which also look at agricultural commodity chains under globalization, for example Journey to the Lands of Cotton by Erik Orsenna. There’s an extract here. The “commodity chain approach” is of course all the rage in PGR circles these days (or it was until recently, do I sense a backlash?), and not only with things like banana and coconut, but for underutilized and neglected species too. But I remain to be convinced that such a focus on “product” at the end of the chain is necessarily good for genetic diversity at its beginning unless you’re very careful.