Agriculture and Biodiversity (fwd)

Lawrence F. London, Jr. london at
Tue Oct 3 02:19:38 EDT 1995

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 1995 10:02:47 -0400 (EDT)
From: Paul Raeburn <praeburn at>
To: sanet-mg at
Subject: Agriculture and Biodiversity

	I would like to invite any list members in the
Washington, D.C. area to a discussion of the crisis in
agricultural diversity conservation. The discussion will
be held at Border's books, 1801 K Street, at 7 p.m. Oct. 2.
I will be reading from my book, "The Last Harvest: The genetic
gamble that threatens to destroy American agriculture." Please
spread the word to interested people. The book makes an
important argument that conservation of biodiversity and
endangered plants is critical to our food supply.

I've appended a short summary of the book below.


Paul Raeburn
Science Editor
The Associated Press
New York.

	One of the nation's richest troves of biological
diversity resides in a cavernous, nondescript building at
Colorado State University. The National Seed Storage Laboratory
houses more than 200,000 seed samples, many from plants that have
become extinct in the wild.

	Most conservationists and environmentalists don't realize
that this treasure is being lost. Fully one-third of the samples
in the seed banks have germination rates below prescribed
standards. Thousands of samples are dead or dying. Meanwhile,
traditional crop varieties grown in the developing world and wild
crop relatives growing in the tropics are disappearing, too.

	Meanwhile, American crops have become dangerously
uniform. Each of our major crops is represented by only a handful
of varieties. That makes them uniformly vulnerable to new pests
and diseases.

	The biological resources that are disappearing are
critical for the breeding of more diverse and robust crops that
can resist pests and diseases and that can be farmed sustainably.
Yet this problem has been entirely absent from debates about
conserving biodiversity. The argument I'm making is that
biological diversity should be preserved because it is crucial to
the maintenance of our food supply. This information ought to be
part of the current debates over the Endangered Species Act and
Bruce Babbitt's national biological survey.

	I have written more on this serious and overlooked
environmental crisis in "The Last Harvest: The Genetic Gamble
that Threatens To Destroy American Agriculture" (Simon &
Schuster). This is not meant to be a commercial plug; I'm not
going to get rich from this book. But I would like to see this
problem included in the current debates about endangered species
and assessing and conserving biological diversity.

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