Seed relief manual — at last

FAO has just published the conclusions of a workshop on seed relief systems held in May 2003. Why note that, apart from to poke fun at the delay? Because one of the most important conclusions to emerge from the best studies of emergency seed relief is that local informal markets, often focussed on locally important varieties, are often the best sources of seed that will not interfere with local agricultural biodiversity.

Biofuel bonanza under the microscope

While I prepare to toss part two of my own humble contribution onto the biofuel bonfire, pop on over to Biopact for a long analysis of Grist magazine’s recent series on biofuels. Biopact does a decent job of expanding Grist’s debate beyond North America. The whole “debate” seems to be doing a better job of generating hot air than biofuels at the moment, but out of this, I hope, only good can eventually emerge. Biofuel from biomass is not a panacea, but if sensibly embraced the idea could bring multiple benefits.

Biomass and bio-energy

We alluded last week to a new paper showing that prairie grasses are a far better source of biomass for energy than anything else currently around. There’s obviously a lot to be said, but rather than clutter up the pages here (our goal is two longer articles a month) I decided to use my own blog to publish a slightly closer look at bio-energy and to link from here to there. So what are you waiting for, go on over and read it. I’ll add links to the other parts as I publish them there.

India protects breeders’ and farmers’ rights

The first registrations are under way in India under the 2001 Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act. The Act is India’s sui generis system for the protection of plant varieties as required under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPs). As the name implies, however, the law also provides for the granting of Farmers’ Rights, following a vocal campaign by NGOs. There’s a good summary of the provisions here.

Protecting TK

There seems to have been a breakthrough – procedurally at any rate – at the WIPO discussions in Geneva on protecting traditional knowledge, folklore and expressions of culture (genetic resources are also on the table). Meanwhile, in Abuja, the Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has launched a committee to boost research on traditional medicine.