NI 435 - Seed savers - September, 2010

NI 435 - September, 2010

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Seed savers

A note from the editor

David Ransom

The frontline against world hunger

This month’s main theme focuses on seeds – the real things, that is. In their bounty, however, they also offer a lazy metaphor for almost anything that flourishes. So here goes.

The next time you see New Internationalist magazine it will have grown. For the past few months a fresh variety has been germinating in the fertile soils of Oxford, Adelaide, Ottawa and Christchurch. It has evolved organically in response to runaway climate change in the media, but without genetic modification to its roots. It will blossom in October to attract the pollinators it needs (not beleaguered bees, by the way, but you, our beloved subscribers, and your friends) to fertilize an ecosystem otherwise suffocated by invasive corporate monoculture. People have three-colour vision just to tell the difference, so the red of this new growth’s delicious fruit will be set against a background of leafy green. A staple crop of information, ideas and inspiration from around the world is, assuredly, the best way to nourish and propagate a future worth having.

So, elsewhere in this ‘heritage’ magazine, there’s a foretaste of greater diversity to come: the long-awaited cross-fertilization of a major trade union (the United Steelworkers in the US) with a big co-operative (Mondragón in the Basque Country); a bloom of activism, and another potential infestation of corporate control, on the World Wide Web. The seeds of possibility may lie dormant in ground made barren by corporate globalization, but they are still fertile.

David Ransom for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

Keynote article.

Tribute to the earth – women of the Arhuacos people pick seeds during the annual summer solstice ceremonies in Nabusimake, Colombia.

Tribute to the earth – women of the Arhuacos people pick seeds during the annual summer solstice ceremonies in Nabusimake, Colombia.

Daniel Munoz / Reuters

Seed savers

The world’s seed markets are being gobbled up by ‘life-science’ corporations – but peasant farmers still feed the world. David Ransom reports.

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Wakehurst Place is a stately house set in majestic grounds; the rural offshoot of Kew Botanic Gardens, London. On a working day in summer, pensioners drift through the shade of exotic trees, sniff scented blooms, sip tea, gaze out over bucolic bliss.

‘Minus 20 degrees,’ says Michael Way, Head of Collecting at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project at Wakehurst. He’s indicating heavy doors off an airlocked dry-room sunk deep into the ground beneath a gigantic modernist shed. Here are preserved se...




Features.

Seeds of Medicago polymorpha (Toothed Bur Clover), native of the Mediterranean, now more widespread, help fix nitrogen in the soil.

Seeds - the facts

There are almost half a million known plant species, and more still to be discovered. Yet we now rely on just 15 to provide 90 per cent of our food crops.

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Handle with care: two varieties of legume saved for seed in eastern Kenya.

Surviving climate change

In many African societies seed preservation was once an almost sacred duty. Isaiah Esipisu explains why it is becoming vital again.

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Merchants of death!

Merchants of death!

The troubling story of a corporate bid to take control of the world’s food supply, told by Sue Branford.

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A world wide web of change

The fundamentals of digital activism are little different from its analogue ancestry, argues Adam Ma'anit

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Crops of truth

Crops of truth

Jaideep Hardikar travels to the bottom of the social scale, and the women of rural south India, to discover where knowledge and wisdom about seeds are still to be found.

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Currents.

Cook feels the heat

Canadian ambassador to Guatemala guilty of slander

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Hacked off

Hacked off

Activists hack into the public website of the European Climate Exchange

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Climate wars in Kenya’s nomadic communities

Climate wars in Kenya’s nomadic communities

Conflicts between nomadic communities over water shortages increase

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A deadly drought

A deadly drought

Conflicts between nomadic communities over water shortages increase

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Poisoned hills

Poisoned hills

Burmese women expose military’s complicity in the opium trade

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Regulars.

In the 1980s and 1990s Blankenship used scab labour and armed guards, the closure of union mines and a plethora of intimidation tactics to break the labour movement in the coal fields

Don Blankenship

Big coal equals big profits, so Don Blankenship doesn’t worry too much about pollution.

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Steelworkers from Canada and the US support striking mine workers outside Brazilian mining company Vale Inco's headquarters on Wall Street.

Working together

A common vision has joined two major players in the labour and co-op movements. Erbin Crowell considers the implications.

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PV Rajagopal: India's mass mobilizer

PV Rajagopal seeks a return to Ghandian values and wonders what happened to his country.

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