The last weeks before Christmas, which should be the time to slow down and reflect on the past year, tend to be ever more stressful and frenetic, filled with efforts to just get. everything. done. This is no different in Brussels and in my little corner of the internet. Here, at least, are some interesting insights that drew my attention in the last week, for you to savor on a Sunday that is hopefully deliciously slow.
Product of Mexico: This LA Times multimedia storytelling effort highlights the dire conditions of Mexican farm workers; for once, not those of migrants in the US, but jornaleros in Mexico itself, which has risen to a massive exporter of fruit and vegetables to the United States. Due to the US’ strict hygienic and quality standards, the production facilities in Mexico are now some of the most sanitary ones in the world – but the same cannot be said for the living quarters and conditions of those employed to pick the crops destined for exports. Great reporting and reminder to check where your food comes from.
Let your voice be heard!: The CGIAR is running a public consultation in preparation of setting its research strategy in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Questions they ask: “What should be the priorities for agricultural research and innovation? What should be the priorities for publicly funded international research on agriculture in a development context? What should be the priorities for the CGIAR and its partners in research, in development and the private sector? And how do these priorities link back to the Sustainable Development Goals?” You can participate in an online survey or send in your thoughts via e-mail. This is a great opportunity to push for research where it matters – I think I will make a contribution talking about low-input/organic agriculture, local seed preservation and adaptation, and the scaling up of integrated agricultural methods such as agroecology and agroforestry. The first round of the consultation runs until the end of December!
Gastropod is quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts, and their episode on the Microbe Revolution was as fascinating as any (it even made me miss my metro stop, but I guess I can’t blame them for making good radio). We have heard much about how microbes can affect our own digestion, and the importance of a healthy gut fauna, but did you know that soil microbes can have the same effect on plants? Apparently, when grown in combination with certain mycorrhizal fungi, the yield of certain crops can more than double. The hosts of the show delve into interesting details without being uber-scientifically complicated, and their website is a great accompanying resource of further reading and information.
And finally, speaking so much about agricultural research, here’s a more light-hearted side to it: the creation of new, fun varieties! This NPR article looks into the newcomers on your plate in 2015: how about some kalette, broccoflower or rainbow carrots?