It isn’t just agricultural biodiversity that needs looking after; sometimes it is the agriculture itself. In my in-basket today two stories of farms saved for the future. Coincidence, I’m sure, but it is not hard to glean a single message of nostalgia combined with urban alienation from the rescue of College Farm in north London and Gellatly Nut Farm in British Columbia. I’ve often thought that we should make more of the commonalities between developed and developing countries than we do. Maybe these stories will help.
Diversity is of course wonderful, but I sometimes wonder whether the urge to manipulate it can be taken too far.
A study just published in Nature and reported in The Times here identified the particular class of the polyphenols found in red wine which confers the greatest health advantage, by suppressing production of a protein which narrows blood vessels. There’s been lots recently in the press about the supposed health benefits of moderate consumption of wine, in particular red wine, as part of the “Mediterranean diet.” Known as polymeric procyanidins, these polyphenols turn out to be present in particularly high concentrations in some wines from Sardinia and the Pyrenees. This is due to both the wine-making technique (the compounds are released from the seeds after a long period of fermentation) and variety (the Tannat grape from SW France is rich in these chemicals). The Cannonau wine from Nuoro (Sardinia) and the Madiran from Gers (France) haveÂ the highest levels of procyanidins,Â and it turns out that people from those areas are also of above-average longevity, especially the men.
Not agricultural biodiversity, but here’s a somewhat radical (in its context) take on conservation through use. Of course, this strategy is fairly well established for wild plants.
The People vs Starbucks rumbles on. Fair Trade weighs in to the debate with an almost entirely decaffeinated post. A shame, really, as there are important issues to discuss in the realms of protecting farmer varieties in a fair and equitable manner. A new blog — Coffee Politics — devoted entirely to the subject, may be worth keeping an eye on.