Re: Re: Why preserving biodiversity is Extropian
Mon, 16 Feb 1998 12:59:43 EST

In a message dated 2/16/98 10:18:45 AM, wrote:

>Enter the new agricultural world spawned by the hobbyists known as
>"heirloom gardeners." In searching for the fondly remembered fruits
>and vegetables of their youth, groups of gardeners have been
>searching out the varieties they seek amongst various ethnic
>groups. These seeds have been contiually propagated and passed from
>generation to generation, hence the name "Heirloom."
>To these people biodiversity is everything. Heirloom seed
>catalogues list hundreds of varieties of such simple things as
>beans, corn, or tomatoes. (and yes potato's!) Not only have they
>mamaged to preserve and repropagate these plants but they are
>creating new varieties that self-polinate. (non-hybrid)

Heirloom crop preservation is a *great* idea, and I have never
understood why the major seed companies don't embrace it
enthusiastically. There's bound to be really useful genes
that have been lost from the current crop lines, and anybody
who ends up owning any of those genes (by owning all their
remaining representatives) will be worth a fortune.

>I would take issue with the idea that our current crops have
>demonstrated there is no need for biodiversity. As I am part Irish,
>I will remind you of the historical lesson of the potato famine of
>1847 (remember less we repeat). The vast portion of the country was
>dependent on a single strain of potato, the "lumper." When a blight
>was accidently introduced the whole country was devasted, millions
>died or fled.

Indeed an excellent example of how biodiversity can be a boon.
However, we still grow varieties of that strain. Oddly, although
preserved biodiversity in wild potatos demonstrably has fixes
for the potato blight, we haven't used them.