Friday, November 8, 2013

Native genes are our ultimate recourse if "modified" genes fail - and they are likely to fail

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio, 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening, Monday through Friday
Native pineapple (Ananas comosus) of Thailand. Like our native pineapple,  it is resistant to tropical conditions and it needs little care. Native genes are the ultimate recourse when "modified genes" fail - and are likely to fail because they are detached from the natural biological world, and cannot survive without man's care and attention.   

When we consider a plant - or animal - for that matter as wild, and we want to domesticate it, all we have to do is introduce it to a place, or live where its abounds. We propagate it, "fence" to protect and claim it to be our own. This is the concept of early domestication in the Golden Crescent, somewhere between the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers in Syria - the birth place of agriculture. 

Science and technology did more than that. Other than identifying the useful species, and selecting the best members of those species as stock, we have altered  their genes through controlled breeding, thus creating varieties (plants), breeds (animals), and strains (protists, like bacteria) This is the concept of modern agriculture.

Came commercialization of agriculture to meet market demands - domestic and foreign - which necessitated intensive and extensive farming, using more inputs like fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation on one hand, and expanding to new horizons covering the whole profile of the landscape on the other.  From lowland, and upland, to hills and mountains, and down to the swamplands, estuaries, and sea.        

Not satisfied, we now combine genes across species, in fact across phyla, divisions and kingdoms, producing GMOs (genetically Modified Organisms), like Bt Corn (corn with spliced gene of Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria.  There are thousands and thousands of genetic engineering applied experiments among organisms today, including cloning of animals, including the human being. This is the concept of genetic engineering, the controversial and most recent green revolution.

The trend today is to go back to the original concept.  Save the native genes because they are attuned to evolution through which they successfully passed, and in fact, have been shaped by evolution itself. 

Thai native corn.  The Philippines has been importing corn from Thailand rather than producing it for our needs.  Thailand does not produce BtCorn, unlike us. Our average corn production is among the lowest in the world, in most cases, less than one ton per hectare.   

The native vegetables need no chemicals, energy cost. They are geared to meet the food and nutritional needs of the producer, his family and community. Malunggay, saluyot, amaranth, alukong, katuray, native squash, ampalaya and the like - they grow with the seasons spontaneously.  No seeding, no cultivation - virtually no human intervention.

Native rice is grown over a wide range from mountain terraces to marshes, requiring little care and attention, in hundred of varieties and cultivars from which we select according to our needs and taste, and sufficiency to fill our home granaries. No, not with the IRRI varieties, the japonica, the long grain varieties - they are too expensive to grow, and very susceptible to pest and environmental factors.  

Why pineapple is expensive is because we changed the native with imported 
ones which are dependent on pesticides, fertilizers, tractors, airplanes and railroads. Why chicken is expensive is because we have vastly changed its genes, its feeds, its housing, and they way it is is eaten.  A whole chicken per person, deprives the food supply of one hundred poor people.

Why we have tungro disease of rice, virus of papaya, galls in santol, borer of atis, rust of coffee, mosaic of tobacco, anthracnose of mango, and many more.  We have introduced foreign varieties susceptible to unfavorable local conditions. Worst we have introduced their pests and diseases to attack our local varieties,
We have crossed their genes with our local gene pool, thereby transmitting their
susceptibility genetically.     

I still prefer tinola cooked with native chicken, "solo" or native green papaya, siling labuyo or native red pepper tops, native luya or ginger, with native black pepper or paminta.  And cooked in clay pot, on clay stove and with firewood. A fine idea that fits into the concept of Small is Beautiful ("Economics as if People Mattered.") by EC Schumacher)
Thailand's native cassava (Manihot utilissima) a source of biogas, an alternative fuel to replace gradually fossil fuel. Brazil is the top alcogas producer from sugarcane and cassava.

The native gene pool is human's ultimate recourse for survival, as imagined in "The Day After Tomorrow", in the aftermath of super typhoons Yolanda, Pablo and Ondoy in the Philippines, super hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in the US.  After another 9-11 attack (this time nuclear, God forbid), in the event that deadly diseases become epidemic - and pandemic. 

And in dealing with the biggest problem of postmodern living  - how to live with life.~  

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