When added value loses value

There’s a conflict between helping farmers to get more value from niche varieties or neglected species and ensuring that the market does not become oversupplied as a result of others emulating that success. BBC News reports on the plight of vanilla growers in the Comoros Islands as the rest of the world cashes in on high vanilla prices.

“Oreo cookie cows” getting dunked?

Dutch Belted cows are also called “Oreo cookie cows” because of their three stripes. Introduced to the United States from Holland in 1840 by P.T. Barnum for use in his circus, they are now endangered, with a global herd of less than 1,000. So the SVF Foundation is collecting sperm, fertilized embryos, blood and tissue. You can read about it here: “Campbell’s Soup heiress Dorrance Hamilton established the foundation in 1998 on a property in Newport that includes the Swiss Village, a restored turn-of-the-century dairy farm, and part of Hammersmith Farm, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ childhood home.”

Coffee and a movie

I haven’t seen it yet, but the movie Black Gold promises to be a fascinating look at how coffee gets from tree to cup. Tadesse Meskala, head of the 74,000-strong Ethiopian Oromia coffee co-operative, is apparently the star of the piece. There are a couple of books out at the moment which also look at agricultural commodity chains under globalization, for example Journey to the Lands of Cotton by Erik Orsenna. There’s an extract here. The “commodity chain approach” is of course all the rage in PGR circles these days (or it was until recently, do I sense a backlash?), and not only with things like banana and coconut, but for underutilized and neglected species too. But I remain to be convinced that such a focus on “product” at the end of the chain is necessarily good for genetic diversity at its beginning unless you’re very careful.