Environment for Beginners
Environment for Beginners

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"We're in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyones arguing over where they're going to sit." - David Suzuki
 

Seed Banks, Monoculture and the Evolution of Agriculture

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Agriculture has been part of men history for thousands of years. It created permanent settlement as oppose to a nomadic living and made possible the sustenance of large population. Agriculture replaced the hunting way of life and further on, created large cities, civilizations and other complex societies. We always tried to improve our techniques by trial and error, and in the past two hundred years, our agriculture knowledge and new equipment made possible much higher productivity. In some cases, the improvement on technology for agriculture has almost reached his limit. While having the finest equipment, we try to accelerate production by manipulating genetic.

By searching seeds capable of higher production and better resistance against pests and blights, we are able to create, in appearance, much healthier crops. Agriculture scientists constantly research on the subject and keep seeds in institution called seed banks. The search of the ultimate seeds is the search for a genetic combination, also known as germplasm, capable of bringing important yield for the harvest season. The best combination of gene is then use massively to harvest the land. Doing so, we create genetically identical plants.

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Painting by Dave Todaro, www.davetodaro.com

Although this sounds like we can control nature, evolution and mutation is a time mechanism that we canít beat. Manipulating genetic in agriculture is ultimately a short term strategy as predators evolve to find other ways to destroy the crops. Since the entire crop is uniform and lack of genetic diversity, it gets completely damage if it doesnít find the gene capable to resist the enemies. Consequently, crops become largely vulnerable to new adapted predators and in number of cases, the crop is created for only one season. Later on, searchers have to find other germplasm in the wild in order to counter the adapted predators.

The most effective germplasm lies in the most natural diversify areas in the world. It is the place where species regularly confronted each other and develop sophisticate defense mechanism. What add to the problem is that those important reservoirs of genetic are mostly found in countries of the Third World, where genetic erosion goes at its fastest with deforestation, wars and uncontrolled industrial development. This is another consequence of overpopulation as food producers take over the land to satisfy the growing needs.

The danger of monoculture is that we donít let the natural evolution of thing do is work. The plants genes are the most developed one, more then the ones of animals and it evolves very fast. Plant genetic is a complex science that we donít fully understand, but yet, we try to control it and interfere in the natural evolution of things. We constantly try to combine genes against fast evolved predators, but doing so, we also keep away the natural process of crops being continually tested in the wild and develop better and stronger resistance mechanism. After all, genes were created by nature itself, not by humans.

 
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