Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Seeds of aridity

"Six years ago, Jennifer Thomson, a molecular biologist in South Africa, trekked high into the Drakensberg mountain range seeking ways of cultivating food in an increasingly arid environment. After seven hours on the trail, she spotted an inhospitable-looking rock face dotted with green grassy tufts, a cluster of resurrection plants, so called for their ability to spring back to life after surviving periods of drought in a state of desiccated dormancy.

Thomson collected samples of the plant and began identifying its genes, with the aim of transferring them into a crop, corn, that plays a critical role in the African diet.

"We are trying to allow maize to survive under conditions when just a little bit of rain would make the difference," said Thomson, a professor at the University of Cape Town. "African farmers never know where the next water shortage will strike."

Her research is just one of many thousands of projects aimed at tackling one of the world's most pressing needs: helping farmers keep their crops growing as water supplies grow scarce."

I like this IHT article sent by D. But my concern is: who will get access to those seeds. Who will own the patents? Will the poor benefit? How? I feel there is too much reliance on technological solutions and on science for solution to global problems without appropriate framing in political economy.

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