Canada (CK) – Crop failure in one part of the world can mean a bonanza to growers elsewhere Cllimate change – and the Canadian government’s increasing efforts to mitigate it – is frequently perceived as a threat to the country’s economic…
Around the world, plant breeders are resisting what they see as corporate control of the food supply by making seeds available for other breeders to use.
Frank Morton has been breeding lettuce since the 1980s. His company offers 114 varieties, among them Outredgeous, which last year became the first plant that NASA astronauts grew and ate in space. For nearly 20 years, Morton’s work was limited only by his imagination and by how many different kinds of lettuce he could get his hands on. But in the early 2000s, he started noticing more and more lettuces were patented, meaning he would not be able to use them for breeding. The patents weren’t just for different types of lettuce, but specific traits such as resistance to a disease, a particular shade of red or green, or curliness of the leaf. Such patents have increased in the years since, and are encroaching on a growing range of crops, from corn to carrots — a trend that has plant breeders, environmentalists and food security experts concerned about the future of the food production.
A determined fellow dedicated to the millennia-old tradition of plant breeding, Morton still breeds lettuce — it just takes longer, because more restrictions make it harder for him to do his work.
A new study published Monday shows that the ongoing decrease in bee populations and other pollinators worldwide will also drastically decrease the number of jobs in agriculture.
“World food supplies and jobs are at risk unless urgent action is taken to stop global declines of pollinators,” according to a statement from the University of Reading, whose researchers took part in the global review.
Animal pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, beetles, wasps, bats, and even lizards are essential for crops. But what’s more, they provide the labor market with work.