Monday, January 28, 2008

Food Diversity Declining

This was going to only be featured in the next reading roundup, but I went back and rewatched the video and a science fiction story came to mind. The book is The Mote in God's Eye written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. What does science fiction have to do with seed diversity and ideas like preserving ancient versions of sees and the Doomsday Bank? Glad you asked.

The short version of the story is that the inhabitants of a planet are incapable of limiting their population growth causing cycles where whatever civilization is evolved destroys itself. At some point in the past, however, a previous civilization has set up technology vaults that provide weapons and other technologies in order for the succeeding civilizations to leap frog past some of their development. Aside from the obvious polemic about population growth (ain't science fiction grand about tackling issues in the form of a good story?) its interesting to me to see this idea being played out now with the ideas of seeds.

At any rate, the article that triggered this reminiscence about good scifi I've read is this recent piece on Celsias: 75 per cent of Food Diversity Lost in Last Century. The general point is that global food markets aren't good for having variety of subspecies. That if when considering the variety of food items in the common grocery store, there may be items from far away that are difficult to grow more locally, other varieties are harder to find. I identify with the apple comments, I dislike 4 of the most
commonly stocked varieties. And to continue the thought, I suspect there are more than 2 types of
cucumber, and I know there are more than 2 types of beans (green,
yellow) that can be eaten whole.

It also reminds me
to hunt down heirloom seed varieties for my deck garden this year.