- Hardcover: 223 pages
- Publisher: Shearwater; 1 edition (September 12, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1597263990
- ISBN-13: 978-1597263993
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #472,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine Hardcover – September 12, 2008
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The author, Gary Paul Nabhan an ethnobotanist and nutritional ecologist, retraces some of the collection trips made by Vavilov to assess the current conditions of those areas to see if they are still practicing their local forms of agriculture, utilizing their native crops and if the natural ecosystems that harbor the wild ancestors of the crop species are still intact. Over and over, the author stresses the need to preserve these areas as sources for genetic diversity which might be needed to develop new cultivated varieties. He also stresses how the indigenous people need to be encouraged to continue their traditional forms of agriculture as means of preserving their culture, so they can continue to be stewards of the local biodiversity and as a means to protect their food supply. These recurring themes will be familiar to those who might have read "Why Some Like It Hot: Foods, Genes and Cultural Diversity" by the same author, a book which focuses on how many cultures and their foods have evolved and adapted together.
My only reservation in recommending the book is it seems at times to be a bit preachy and to rely on rhetoric to persuade the reader to the point of view that modern, industrial agriculture is far inferior to the methods used by indigenous peoples for thousands of years to domesticate their crops and feed themselves. Should you happen to be employed in the seed industry, or even be one of the architects of modern agriculture (a plant breeder), you might want to brace yourself for a bit of abuse from the authors. In the foreword to the book Ken Wilson, the Executive Director of the Christensen Fund, writes, "That greater effectiveness in plant breeding comes from allowing all knowledge to be applied to the problem we know from masses of experience(both positive and negative). The fact that other approaches still get the majority of funding is because of private interests, and sometimes because of the vanities and narrowness of training and perspective of the actors." Nabhan writes in his section on the native farmers of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico, "...the notion that there might be one superior maize cultivar that will meet all community needs is considered to be a folly among indigenous folk of the sierras; nevertheless it remains the pipe dream of some plant breeders." And in the epilogue Nabhan makes his strongest statement in favor of traditional farming methods, "Moreover, the corporate and academic plant breeders who are the most common recipients of seeds from those repositories typically do work that is a poor substitute for that done on-farm by "vernacular plant breeders"--traditional farmers." So, if you are a professional plant breeder be prepared to be referred to as vain, narrow-minded and poorly trained by the authors of this book.