Posts tagged agriculture
The last drug has fallen. Bacteria carrying a gene that allows them to resist polymyxins, the antibiotics of last resort for some kinds of infection, have been found in Denmark and China, prompting a global search for the gene. The discovery means that gram-negative bacteria, which cause common gut, urinary and blood infections in humans, can now become “pan-resistant”, with genes that defeat all antibiotics now available. That will make some infections incurable, unless new kinds of antibiotics are brought to market soon. Colistin, the most common polymyxin, is a last-resort treatment for infections with bacteria such as E. coli and Klebsiella that resist all other available antibiotics.
Inspired by the open-source software movement, the Open Source Seed Initiative has quietly spent the last two years developing a cache of seeds that they released to the world at a launch event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May. With names like “Sovereign” (a carrot variety) and “Midnight Lightning” (a zucchini), they packaged together 37 varieties of 14 crops attached to a pledge: Open-source seeds must stay freely available for use by all–no intellectual property rights can be claimed to the seeds or derivatives bred from them.
“I feel knowledge of electronics and software programming makes me a better farmer than just having a hoe. Gardens that can communicate for themselves using the internet can lead to exchanging of ideas in ways that were not possible before. I can test, for instance, whether the same tomato grows better in Oakland or the Sahara Desert given the same conditions. Then I can share the same information with farmers in Iceland and China.”
An experiment in Nicaragua shows just how powerful Open Source software can be in leveling the playing field. The second poorest country of the Americas now has one of the best software solutions for displaying agricultural data in the western hemisphere.