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WRI report offers menu of silver bullets for sustainable food

The ‘World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future’ is out and the news is that “there is no silver bullet.” Rather, there’s a whole list of things that need to be done. For example, we need “[g]enetic tools allowing farmers to select for size, flavor, and temperament of vegetables.”

No wait, that’s The Onion, my mistake. It’s National Geographic I was looking for.

Here’s the actual, very sensible, menu:

  • Reduce growth in demand by cutting food loss and waste, eating healthier diets, and more
  • Increase food production without expanding agricultural land area via yield gains for both crops and livestock
  • Protect and restore natural ecosystems by reducing deforestation, restoring peatlands, and linking yield gains with ecosystem conservation
  • Increase fish supply by improving aquaculture systems and better managing wild fisheries
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production through innovative technologies and farming methods

Needless to say, agricultural biodiversity underpins pretty much all of the above, including attitude-free vegetables. Maybe there is a silver bullet after all?

The nitty gritty of ABS explained

There’s an update on the nitrogen-fixing maize goop story that we blogged about a few months back. It’s from YaleEnvironment360, so you know it’s going to be good.

A Mars subsidiary called BioN2 had signed an agreement with a village to share financial benefits from the maize’s commercialization. That village turned out to be Totontepec, a Mixe indigenous community in the mountains of eastern Oaxaca… The UC Davis/Mars researchers received a certificate of compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement aimed at compensating indigenous communities for their biological resources and traditional knowledge.

Sounds good, right? But questions remain.

Still, the situation surrounding Totontepec’s maize raises complex questions about how indigenous communities equitably benefit when research scientists and multinational corporations commercialize local crops and plants. Should Totontepec’s maize turn out to be a miracle, self-fertilizing crop whose genetic traits can be replicated worldwide, will the community’s Mixe people receive a significant long-term share of profits, which could potentially number in the millions of dollars? How does Nagoya ensure that the rights and interests of small indigenous communities are safeguarded when their leaders negotiate complex deals with international lawyers and executives? And, not least, when a valuable plant is found throughout a region, is it fair for a single village such as Totontepec to reap financial benefits from its maize while neighboring communities with identical or similar maize receive nothing?

These questions, and others, are discussed in the article, which is really a model of its kind, courtesy of Martha Pskowski.