October 19, 2007
The Noah's Ark of Agriculture
Cary Fowler talks to us about biodiversity. He starts his presentation with the analogy between whales and potatoes. They share a need for diversity. And if the one rule is that you adapt or you die, then what governs and determines the fate of biological diversity?
Cary has been an integral player in the establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway—the ultimate agricultural gene bank which will house seed samples of nearly every food crop from every country. Cary says, “In some ways, you could say the gene banks are a Noah’s ark of agriculture."
He shows us a few examples of diversity in agriculture, such as a page full of colored beans in various sizes. He reminds us how many varieties of crops there are, i.e., 120,000 varieties of rice compared to only 400 breeds of dogs.
Crop varieties are becoming distinct, we're losing that diversity through mismanagement, disasters and more. "We're losing our library of life," says Cary.
He then dives into climate change and food security. "We're headed towards a place where our agricultural crops have never been before. Our crops have not seen warm climate like this since neolithic time."
His team has started to put together programs to save these crops as well as research crops to find ways to save them. They're putting together a global system to protect our most important crops, i.e., safety back up for seed banks since we're losing so much in seed banks.
We're shown a large glacier which is melting, photos he took on Monday and Tuesday of this week, so we could see them in their 'current state.' "We need to sustain this diversity, using nature," he says. He shows us a small Norweigan town where they are building a seed vault to protect some of these seeds, which they are getting from around the world.
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