Brainfood: Wheat exudates, Conservation threats, Resilience, Dietary recommendations, Urban green spaces, Dog spread, Wild foods, Ethnic fish, Brazilian cattle, Nocturnal fixation, Agroforestry impacts

European parliamentarians get to grips with crop wild relatives

A European Parliament committee discussing “Genetic diversity, conservation and crops wild relatives”? Yeah, I didn’t think that was possible either, but here’s the evidence. And you can even see and hear the whole thing, in the language of your choice. In the hot seat in front of the committee were: Prof. Nigel Maxted, Senior Lecturer in Genetic Conservation, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, UK; Dr Susanne Barth, Senior Research Officer, Plant Genetics, Teagasc CELUP Crop Research, Ireland; and Dr Nicolas Roux, Senior Scientist, Musa Genetic Resources Team Leader, Effective Genetic Resources Conservation and Use Initiative, Bioversity International, Montpellier, France.

At least one parliamentarian was impressed with what Nigel (right) et al. had to say. Let’s hope that translates into action.

Agricultural biodiversity neglected in sustainability index

A new measure of the sustainability of food production is out, thanks to The Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, and making a splash, at least with the countries that come out with a high score. It considers agricultural sustainability, food loss and waste and nutritional challenges at a country level. Among the more than 60 indicators which go into making up the index you’ll find “agricultural diversification” (the share of total agricultural production represented by the top 3 crops) and something called “environmental biodiversity.” This last turns out to be the “Proportion of local breeds classified as being at risk of extinction” which of course is SDG Indicator 2.5.2, as we saw yesterday. That seems to be a little light on agricultural biodiversity (quite apart from the fact that the particular indicator has a lot of missing values). Have the compilers not heard of the Agrobiodiversity Index? Or of the other indicators under SDG Target 2.5?

Reviewing plant conservation in the Anthropocene

An interesting review is just out by the Grand Old Man of plant conservation (or one of them), Vernon Heywood, under the title Plant conservation in the Anthropocene – challenges and future prospects. It’s a long read, but worth it, and thanks go to the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences for funding open access.

One bit that struck me in particular comes at the bottom of page 13 of the PDF version, where Prof. Heywood compares the status of ex situ conservation in wild and cultivated species:

Protected Area systems were one conspicuous exception but for other areas, such as ex situ conservation, no attempt was made to put in place the necessary global institutional structure. This contrasts with the situation for agriculture and forestry which when faced with the widespread erosion of genetic diversity in crops, a gene bank system and appropriate protocols for the collection, storage and access to seed was developed by organizations such as the FAO, CGIAR and IBPGR (now Bioversity International) and a number of national and regional gene banks were also created. For ex situ conservation of wild species, no serious efforts were made to address the issue of capacity and it was left to botanic gardens to attempt to take on the role of ex situ conservation of plants although in most cases without the necessary staff, support or finance (Heywood, 2009). Spain was one of the few countries — in fact a pioneer — to recognize this need and the environment agencies of some autonomous governments helped to create or support seed banks in some botanic gardens or other centres. Even more critical is the situation for the conservation of target species in situ for which no dedicated institutional arrangements have been put in place with the consequence that the relevant 2020 targets are unlikely to be met.

While fair enough as far as it goes, this seems to me to ignore the work of the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew in supporting partnerships for ex situ conservation of wild plant species around the world, and indeed also downplays the successes of botanical gardens, and their networking arrangements under Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Brainfood: Banana diversity, Cacao and CC, Coffee and CC, Zosya diversity, Certification, Genetic surrogates, Potato diversity, Food sovereignty, Swiss wheat, Seed storage, Golden potato