Market assisted selection

There’s a discussion of marker assisted selection (MAS) in, of all places, the Guardian. The writer, Jeremy Rifkin, tries to sell MAS as a consumer-friendly alternative to GM, but judging by some of the comments that is not going to be a universally successful strategy.

Yet another drink for healthier hearts

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) has long been touted as a healthy source of flavonoids and other compounds claimed to protect against heart disease and other “civilised” ailments. A report in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (abstract available freely here) says that Indian scientists have developed a new method of extracting sea buckthorn juice that results in a greater yield of juice that is higher in these protective compounds. An article suggests that sea buckthorn could now join “an ever-increasing list of a number of antioxidant fruits, including pomegranate, guarana, mangosteen, noni berries, goji berries and blueberries, which are increasingly seen by food and beverage makers as up and coming ingredients”. Ah, but will it taste good?

Crop genetic diversity metas

An interesting Letter to Nature entitled “Effects of biodiversity on the functioning of trophic groups and ecosystem” here. A meta-analysis of studies that have “experimentally manipulated species diversity … shows that the average effect of decreasing species richness is to decrease the abundance or biomass of the focal trophic group, leading to less complete depletion of resources used by that group … (but also that) … the standing stock of, and resource depletion by, the most species-rich polyculture tends to be no different from that of the single most productive species used in an experiment.” Are there enough data out there for a similar meta-analysis of experimental manipulations of genetic diversity in crop fields?

Beerodiversity at risk from globeerization

The world is awash with millennial beer traditions, but this frothy cornucopia is increasingly under threat as the Big 5 Brewers globalize their way to domination, according to Chris O’Brien, author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World and of this article, from which I borrowed the title of this post. The disappearance of home-brewing would adversely affect social bonds, community identity, women’s position in society and their income, and rural people’s health and nutrition. What to do? Here’s a taste:

“Domestic policies that favor small-scale, local production, just like the ones that now support the American craft-brewing renaissance, must be applied to foreign policy as well. Policies that burden small brewers with regulations must be reduced or removed, while tax incentives and public giveaways to industrial brewers are halted. Proven strategies can be used for promoting small business, such as low-interest loans and other community investments tools. Small-scale technology and structures must be prioritized in order to benefit the greatest number of domestic brewers, while subsidies favoring large-scale production and distribution should be eliminated.”

Surely promoting the local crops and landraces which form the raw materials of local homebrews also needs to be in the mix?

Slow Food arrives

The Slow Food movement 20 years old this year. It is having its annual showcase in Italy this week. Slow Food “aims to promote traditional farming techniques and products, to counter the spread of factory farming.” Its potential as a means of promoting neglected and underutilized species is clear, but I wish there were some tangible success stories from developing countries.