A long article on International Press Service’s wire gives a broad overview of the benefits to farmers in developing countries of switching to organic principles of production. The article cites many benefits, including the buffering and resilience associated with greater diversity in an ecosystem.
For example, a village in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia that had converted to organic agriculture continued to harvest crops even during a severe drought, while neighbouring villages using conventional chemical fertilisers had nothing, according to Louise Luttikholt, strategic relations manager at the International Federation of Organic Agriculture (IFOAM). Agriculture departments in Ethiopia are reported to be keener on organics now.
The article looks at experiences from elsewhere around the world too.
A blog called Conservation Finance draws attention to a report on building biodiversity businesses. The report was prepared by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and is a draft for discussion, but I cannot do that as I have not yet read it. However, I noted with pleasure that there is a section on agriculture, which is encouraging, and not all that common among mainstream conservationists. By the way, Conservation Finance’s link to the report is pretty much broken; use this one instead.
Part 2 of my musings on bioenergy is now available. This ramble looks at a novel form of breeding yeast, persuading it to make many more errors as it copies its DNA, and thus throw up lots of mutants for engineers to select among. The result is a yeast of unparalleled potency that would have been all but impossible to produce by tinkering with one gene at a time. And that leads into a consideration of some of the policy aspects of biofuels, such as what poor people will eat when the bioenergy industry is paying more than double today’s price for food in order to turn that food into fuel.
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.
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.