The Slow Food movement 20 years old this year.Â It isÂ 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.
Coffee trouble brewing
The question is: would Ethiopia trademarking its Sidano and Harar coffee result in a better return to local farmers through increased leverage or in a worse return through higher prices. Read about it here. I’d be tempted to bet on the former, or Starbucks wouldn’t be protesting so much. Or is that too cynical?
A forthcoming Science paper by Charles W. Whitfield, a professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and othersÂ looks at the evolution of the honey-bee, Apis mellifera. EurekAlert has a summary and some pithy quotes from the author here. SNPs revealed that the honey-bee originated in Africa and then spread to Europe in two waves, resulting in genetically-distinct though nearly sympatric populations there. No word on whether these migrations could be related to human movements in any way, at least not in the summary.
Stronger, straighter bananas
Is biofortification still the next big thing, or is it yesterday’s news already? Anyway, here’s an article on an Australia-Uganda collaboration on bananas funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But Pohnpei nutritionist Dr Lois Englberger has reminded me that foods do not contain vitamin A, as implied in the article. They contain vitamin A precursors, provitamin A carotenoids, mainly beta-carotene, which the body uses to synthesize vitamin A.
Altering the almighty alpaca
There’s an alpaca improvement project based at the Munay Paq’ocha laboratory (“beautiful alpaca” in Quechua) in a place called Macusani in the highlands of southern Peru where they measure follicle density, fibre diameter and elasticity and use the data to choose the best parents for their breeding programme. The BBC is there. See also this piece on the use of microchips to track the alpaca herd.