Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wheat Rust Alert

This is bad news. A new strain of wheat stem rust, wonderfully named Ug99, has emerged in Uganda and spread to Kenya, Egypt, Yeman and India. It is able to infect pretty much all the rust-resistant strains of wheat developed by the green revolution scientists.

Wheat is most important food crop in the world; and world food reserves are currently low, since food production is no longer keeping up with consumption. If all goes well, it will take five years or more to develop new strains of wheat resistant to Ug99 and distribute the seed.

In 1954, just before Norman Borlaug began work on rust-resistant wheat, a plague of stem rust destroyed 40% of the wheat crop in the US.

In recent years, industrial countries -- especially the US and UK --have refused to adequately fund the international agencies responsible for the green revolution, apparently believing that microorganisms cannot evolve. As a result, the agencies were slow to spot Ug99 and have not had the resources to respond quickly.

Per the New Scientist:
... For more than two decades donors have been cutting (open) funding in favor of only financing projects allied to their own interests. As wheat stem rust re-emerged in 1999, the main CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research) lab was entering a major funding crisis, and ended up sacking a quarter of its scientists. It has taken until now to beg enough money to fight the disease.

Every time I read something like this, I think "Reagan and Thatcher." I will live with the results of their greed, selfishness and stupidity for the rest of my life.

It is not a good idea to take apart human society. We really cannot survive as individuals or tiny, nuclear families.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not that we can't survive, Eleanor--we can. But what we will lose in the process of disassembling society is everything that we have striven for for thousands of years--culture, learning, science, art, rights, peoplehood--all gone.

Because our leaders don't have the foresight to know that problems don't just go away, and they do evolve, and we are not the only people in the world who matter.

7:26 PM  

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