The National Research Council in the US has published a report on the importance of pollinators for crop production funded by the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, National Academies and the Research Council’s Division on Earth and Life Studies and requested by The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, representing agencies and organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. According to this story, “the report pointed out that in order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants — including most food crops and some that provide fiber, drugs, and fuel — rely on pollinators for fertilization” and “a decline in pollinators may spell trouble for crops.” Well alrighty then. Among the recommendations:
- the Agriculture Department should increase research into pest management and bee breeding practices
- long-term studies must be done on the populations of wild bee species and some butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, and the United States should collaborate with Canada and Mexico to form a network of long-term monitoring projects
- landowners should take simple steps to make habitats more “pollinator friendly,” for instance by growing native plants
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.
Did you know October was Fair Trade Month? There’s a nice discussion of fair trade in chocolate here. Again, has anyone done a study of how fair trade certification empirically affects genetic diversity in farmers’ fields?
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.”
AlphaGalileo, the self-styled “world’s leading resource for European research news” has a piece on an experiment to reconstruct early Neolithic living conditions in Austria. But what varieties are they going to grow?