Presentation on theme: "A Study of World Newspaper Coverage of Two 21 st -Century Seed Banks: The Erroneous Scientific Ideas Fostered by the Popular Press Misnomer: “Doomsday."— Presentation transcript:
A Study of World Newspaper Coverage of Two 21 st -Century Seed Banks: The Erroneous Scientific Ideas Fostered by the Popular Press Misnomer: “Doomsday Vault” James H. Wandersee Louisiana State University Renee M. Clary Mississippi State University http:// EarthScholars.com
Research Design WE studied only the openings of the two newest and largest world seed banks, as covered in the world’s popular press (English newspapers). We conducted a decade-long newspaper content analysis using two vast electronic databases. We identified the top 5 misconceptions being sown by science newswriters.
Agriculture Created the Need for Seed Banks The emergence of agriculture, and with it of civilization, roughly 10,000 years ago started the process of domestication, by farmers, of the plants that feed the world. Agriculture emerged independently in different continents, in what are called "the centers of origin" of crops. When our ancestors started to identify, collect, farm, and disseminate those agricultural species, a process was set afoot of mutual adaptation between humans and the plants they grew, PLUS between these plants and their environment.
Reasons to Have Seed Banks Climate change : Scientists are concerned that climate change will cause extreme weather conditions and bring new pests into some environments. These events could cause certain species of plants to go extinct. Rosenthal.Rosenthal Natural disasters : Natural disasters can wreak havoc on a region's ecosystem. After the 2004 tsunami destroyed rice paddies in Malaysia and Sri Lanka, international seed banks provided local farmers with varieties of rice to begin growing their crops again. Roug.Roug Disease : Disease quickly and easily wipes out crops. For example, a recent strain of disease called stem rust (Ug99) may have the capability to infect up to 25% of the world's wheat supply. Singh.Singh Man-made disaster: Man-made disasters can be as devastating to plant life as natural disasters. An obvious example would be war. In fact, one of Iraq's vital seed banks was looted during fighting. Pearce. Research: Indigenous people have used plants to cure sickness for centuries. One in every six wild plants is used for medicinal purposes. Levine. Who knows what diseases the right plant or herb could eradicate? Levine
Plants That Humans Use for Food There are ~400,000 known species of plants Just 3 species (wheat, rice, maize) provide 50% of the world’s plant-derived food energy and most people eat only 30 species regulartly. There are over 120,000 varieties of rice alone. A study published in the journal BioScience analyzed over 7,000 plant species consumed by people, in order to incorporate them into an evolutionary tree. Rather than focusing narrowly, we now consume plants from a remarkably high number of plant families A Big Mac represents 20 plant species
A Tale of Two 21 st -Century Seed Banks Norway’s marvelous, arctic Global Seed Vault opened in 2008. It can conserve 4.5 million food crop seed samples. Although it is the latest global seed bank to capture the world’s attention, Norway’s is not open to visitors; the UK’s is. At the UK seed bank operated by Royal Botanic Gardens-Kew (2000), we witnessed one of the most impressive plant conservation projects ever conceived—complete with well-designed interpretive seed science exhibits. Here, with seed processing and research laboratories visible through glass walls, visitors are taught how a modern seed bank works and why it is important to preserve plant germplasm for future generations.
Global Seed Vault on Svalbard Island The vault was built by Norway, and its operations are financed by government and private donations, including $20 million from Britain, $12 million from Australia, $11 million from Germany, and $6.5 million from the United States.
Entrance to Global Seed Vault An automated digital monitoring system controls temperature and provides security. No one person has all of the codes for the entrance.
A View of One Storage Chamber What started out as independent efforts from seed banks around the world is now being consolidated and systematized. The seeds -- peas from Nigeria, corn from Mexico – reside in this glazed cavelike structure.
The “Fort Knox” of Seeds An ancient strain of wheat, left, and garbanzo beans, right, are examples of the types of seeds and sprouts that will be stored in the vault to prevent the continued disappearance of plant species.
Who Owns the GSB Seeds? All seeds stored in the Seed Vault remain the property of the country or institution which sent them. There is no change of ownership, though, in any case, any seeds accepted for storage at the Vault must be freely available under the terms of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
The Millennium Seed Bank Its goal is to eventually store and protect more than 24,000 global species of plants. It currently stores samples of the UK’s entire native plant population, including several hundred endangered species
An Imperfect Plant Science Newswriting Metaphor While the world press’ sensationalist label “Doomsday Vault” had not only grabbed our students' attention and stimulated interest in seed banks, but it had also implanted five erroneous scientific ideas. (1086) The Doomsday Books: The word domesday, or doomsday, is literally “a day of reckoning,” meaning a date when a lord takes account of what is owed him by his subjects and no more grace is extended. (These seed bank projects are actually more about taking stock of our seed resources than repopulating Earth!)
Most Prevalent Misconceptions Sown 1.This vault can “source” the replanting of a devastated and barren Earth. (Vital biotic and abiotic factors also must be present.) 2. All plant seeds can be “banked.” (Not all seeds can be stored by freezing. Banana, the world's 5th most valuable crop, is one example. Seed research must accompany “banking.”)
Most Prevalent Misconceptions Sown 3. Only in a global catastrophe will the banked seeds be used. (The seeds will likely be needed about once a year, as seed collections have been wiped out – for instance by a typhoon in the Philippines, or wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
4. Seed banks store mainly important seeds of plants proven to be useful to the many. ( Actually, these banks are part of the world battle against hunger, as crop insecurity mainly hurts poor nations. Crops important to the poorest of the poor have really been neglected. Millet and crops like cow pea receive so little attention. These are "orphan crops" because, until now, they had no one to take care of them.) Most Prevalent Misconceptions Sown
5. Seed banking is a one-time process. ( Actually, re-banking is as important as banking because storage life varies by species. Eventually all seeds will die. Before this happens, scientists must remove the seeds from storage and plant them to a harvest, and re-bank fresh seeds.)
Implications for Instruction From our ~ decade-long world newspaper content analysis of news stories about these two new seed banks and the identified misconceptions sown by newswriters)… We concluded that classroom study of today’s global seed banks and the establishment of a classroom seed bank project are enticing, and would allow specific, important biological concepts endorsed by the National Science Education Standards (1996) to be demonstrated and learned.
There are about 1,400 seed banks around the world, so which seeds get chosen for storage varies from location to location. Local seed banks may focus on the storage of indigenous wildflowers or specialty vegetables, for example. Other banks have a more global focus.
A Cautionary Note! Type the words "seed bank" into the Google search engine and you'll see the first few pages of results are almost exclusively about marijuana seed banks.Google marijuana Are marijuana seeds included in global seed vaults? The answer to that question is "yes." However, many of these marijuana seed bank web sites don't have anything to do with saving the planet. These seeds are for sale for people looking to grow marijuana. The sites claim to offer this information only for countries where growing marijuana is legal; but they also advise against making any purchases with a traceable credit card. Hmmm.