The discovery of an enzyme which sits at a crucial step on the metabolic journey from glucose to that important anti-oxidant, vitamin C, opens the way for the kind of silver bullet thinkingÂ we have previously been somewhat critical of on this blog. Or it may not. We’ll see.
One of the researchers says:
We now have two strategies to provide enhanced protection against oxidative damage: Stimulate the endogenous activity of the identified enzyme or engineer transgenic plants which overexpress the gene that encodes the enzyme.
But I wonder whether this discovery will also allow the rapid evaluation of cultivars for vitamin C content?
I’m always somewhat ambivalent about the kind of story I saw today on Kangla Online about how some farmers in Senaputi district in north-eastern India are taking up the cultivation of Stevia. This is a South American herb in the Asteraceae which is widely cultivated around the world as the source of an alternative to artificial sweeteners.
On the one hand, it is always good to see farmers diversifying and experimenting, including with exotic crops. On the other, you wonder whether there isn’t a local – and locally used – species that might have been promoted and commercialized in this way. And will the money farmers raise from Stevia be sufficient to buy them and their families the nutritious food they will no longer be growing on their land?
It is all too easy to concentrate on the bad news out of Africa, so for a change on Biodiversity Day I’d like to point to three feel-good stories about how Africans are using biodiversity to make better lives for themselves. Via Timbuktu Chronicles come pieces on traditional medicine in Mali and local leafy greens in Kenya and Tanzania. And there’s also a World Vision report out today on how farmers in Tanzania are turning to an unusual crop.
Blogger Mustard Plaster has decided to delve into the magic of growing cereal grains with hull-less oats and hull-less barley. She complains that there isn’t much advice on gardening books, and she’s right. As one who has been there and done that, I can recommend only one book: “Small-Scale Grain Raising” by Gene Logsdon. And to tell the truth, even that is not much use for the gardener, although it is a fun read. Freshly ground, home grown cereals; that would take a lot of beating at breakfast time.