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America's apple pie threatened by loss of Central Asia's forests

by Magnifico Mon May 11th, 2009 at 03:32:13 AM EST

During last year's U.S. presidential campaign, Barack Obama campaigned on a pro-pie platform. But apple pie, an epitome of Americanness, is threatened by the apple's stagnant gene pool.

Like many Americans, the apple is an immigrant to the United States. The apple's ancestors came from Central Asia. Today, wild apple trees grow in the Tien Shan Mountains in Western China and in neighboring Kazakhstan. Almaty, the former capital, of Kazakhstan literally means 'the Father of Apples'.

In addition to wild apple, Central Asia is home to more than 300 wild fruit and nut species, including plum, cherry, apricot, pistachio, walnut and many other important food trees from which domesticated varieties are thought to originate.

A team of international scientists have completed an inventory of Central Asia's trees and identified 44 species in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan as globally threatened with extinction.

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A bowl of local fruit and nuts in Kyrgyzstan
Chris Loades/Fauna & Flora International

The Red List of Trees of Central Asia (pdf) lists two ancestors of today's domesticated apples as endangered. "Two wild apple species, Malus niedzwetzkyana and Malus sieversii, are still found in the fragmented fruit and nut forests of Central Asia and are threatened by habitat degradation, mainly from agricultural development and overgrazing."

Most apples grown today in the United States come from the same five or six parents. As Michael Pollan explained in a 1998 article in the New York Times:

That genetic uniformity makes the apple a sitting duck for its enemies. In the wild, a plant and its pests are continuously coevolving, in a dance of resistance and conquest that can have no ultimate victor. But coevolution freezes in an orchard of grafted trees, since they are genetically identical. The problem is that the apples no longer get to have sex, which is nature's way of testing out fresh genetic combinations. The viruses, bacteria and fungi keep at it, however, continuing to evolve until they've overcome whatever resistance the apples may have once possessed.

Over the past century, the genetic diversity of America's apple varieties have dropped from several thousands to a handful. With apples genetically locked in, pests have an evolutionary advantage of wiping out America's apple crops. "Anyone with an apple in his yard knows how pathetic these trees can be... No other crop requires quite as much pesticide as commercial apples, which receive upward of a dozen chemical showers a season," Pollan observed.

"The solution," according to Philip Forsline, a USDA horticulturist at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, "is for us to help the apple evolve artificially" and mingle in fresh genes to our domestic apple varieties through breeding. Keeping as many wild apple genes available is therefore vital for the domesticated apple's survival. Pollan wrote:

"It's a question of biodiversity," Mr. Forsline said, as we walked down rows of antique trees, tasting apples as we talked. Every time an old apple variety drops out of cultivation, or a wild apple forest succumbs to development (as is happening today in Kazakhstan), a set of genes vanishes from the earth...

The greatest biodiversity of any crop is apt to be found in the place where it first evolved, where nature first experimented with what an apple, or potato or peach, could be.

Only eight years later, ScienceDaily reported Forsline and plant geneticist Gennaro Fazio experiments breeding wild apples with domestic varieties found them to me more resistant to diseases and fungi. A finding that they "documented with astonishment". Fazio and Forsline were "most impressed with the material collected in Kazakhstan, especially accessions of Malus sieversii".

According to Forsline, the Kazak trees showed significant resistance to apple scab---the most important fungal disease of apples--as well as to fire blight. They were highly resistant against Phytophthora cactorum, which causes collar rot, and Rhizoctonia solani, an agent of apple replant disease, according to Fazio. Both researchers found genes in the Kazak apples that allow them to adapt to mountainous, near-desert, and cold and dry regions.

As the Red List study, which was published by the Fauna & Flora International (FFI), explains:

The genetic diversity of fruit and nut trees within the region is of outstanding global significance. As elsewhere in the world, the trees of Central Asia face an onslaught of threats from habitat destruction, over-grazing, over-harvesting and the increasing impact of global climate change...

The mountains of Central Asia are a recognized global biodiversity hotspot, supporting over 300 wild fruit and nut species. These include wild species of apple (four species), almond (8-10 species), cherry (8-10 species), plum (4-5 species), and walnut (one species) as well as many domesticated varieties.

So not only are the ancestors of our apples from Central Asia, but also other genetically important species of fruit and nut trees come from the region. Protecting these trees' natural habitat and cultivating them may prove vital to keeping the world's food supply resilient into the future within a changing climate.

Ninety percent of the forest habitat for these fruit and nut trees has been lost in the past 50 years according a Conservation International estimate. In addition, as the study notes, "the region has undergone dramatic economic, social and political transition following independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991" which has put tremendous stress on Central Asia's forests and woodlands to prove fuel, food, and income.

"Although logging is officially illegal in the majority of the indigenous forests in Central Asia, substantial quantities are still removed", according to the study. 80 percent of the rural Tajikistan household rely on wood fuel for cooking.

Additionally, "walnuts, apples, and pistachios are an important source of livelihoods for rural communities in Central Asia." Collection "ranges from subsistence harvesting to collection for international trade" which "can be a major source of income for the local population, especially during years of good harvest".

People in Kyrgyzstan gather the annual walnut harvest
Chris Loades/Fauna & Flora International

The trees in one Central Asian country were not inventoried in the Red List study. With the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the trees in its forests went unexamined. Afghanistan was once "known as the orchard of Central Asia" as then-Senator Hillary Clinton said in 2005. A stable Afghanistan may be vital to the survival of Central Asia's vulnerable trees.

The United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization wrote in 2002:

In happier days, Afghanistan was a paradise of orchards and vineyards, spice gardens and forests. Sophisticated irrigation systems watered crops and were channeled into beautiful pleasure gardens for the leisure classes. In the 1960s, high-value horticulture and dried fruit provided Afghanistan with almost half of its export revenue...

In most of Afghanistan today, the gardens have been decimated by drought. All that remains of the extensive pistachio forests of Badakhshan province, for example, are a few trees standing stark against the mountains. "We have destroyed an economic resource," says the provincial Acting Governor, Muhammed Shah Zijhum. "And bare mountains mean more floods and soil erosion."

If the remaining forests of Central Asia are allowed to fail, then I think it is possible that more wars will break out and spread in the region. As the Red List study illustrates, the forests of Central Asia are shrinking due to the demands placed on them and these pressures, combined with a lack of forest management, is making it a possibility, as BBC News emphases, that these wild fruit trees face extinction. The fruit and nut trees are "disease-resistant and climate-tolerant" and "could play a role in our future food security."

Antonia Eastwood, the lead author of the research, described the region as a "unique global hotspot of diversity".

"A lot of these species are only found in this area... It's very mountainous and dry, so many of these species have a great deal of tolerance to cold and drought.

"A lot of our domestic fruit supply comes from a very narrow genetic base," she continued. "Given the threats posed to food supplies by disease and the changing climate, we may need to go back to these species and include them in breeding programmes."

Apples are not uniquely vulnerable. Many of the grains, roots, fruits, and vegetables that we eat today are susceptible to disease and pests.

The world's wheat crop, for example, is threatened by a virulent new strain of stem rust fungus spreading out of Kenya. The banana that is widely available today is not the tastier Gros Michel variety, which was wiped out by disease by the 1960s, but the blander, inferior Cavendish banana. And, climate change in the Andes Mountains is allowing potato blight, the same mold that contributed to the Great Famine in Ireland, to cause problems for farmers in Peru.

There are "a number of limitations" in relying on seed banks, according to a 2006 study by WWF International, Food Store: Using protected areas to secure crop genetic diversity (pdf), so interest in "the conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of
viable populations of species in their natural surroundings" has been growing steadily since the 1990s. Compared to maintaining seed banks, it is more cost effective to preserve ecosystems.

Chris Loades/Fauna & Flora International

Additionally, seed banks have the same problem of locking the plant's genes in place, just like we've done with our domestic apples. Storing seeds "freezes adaptive evolutionary development, especially that which is related to pest and disease resistance". Allowing for plant species to live in their natural environments "allows for natural genetic interactions between crops, their wild relatives and the local environment to take place".

The danger with relying solely on conservation, however, is "under extreme conditions of environmental change (such as catastrophes, or rapid climate change) catastrophic loss of genetic diversity rather than adaptation is likely to occur". So, a mixed approach is important. Keeping the wild varieties in seed banks and in research stations, and preserving these plants natural environments. Because, the genes contained in these wild varieties may prove essential to the survival of not only our domestic varieties of apple, but many other fruit and nut varieties.

A financial commitment in preserving and protecting can make a difference according to the Red List study. "Many of the state agencies lack basic equipment and infrastructure such as uniforms, horses or vehicles, communication equipment and ranger posts. In order to alleviate the immediate pressures on forests from firewood collection and illegal logging, pilot projects that provide alternative sources of energy to villagers should be trialled, assessed and rolled out."

It is a sad irony that the progenitor of the domesticated apple, Malus sieversii, is threatened by extinction in its natural environment, whilst the export value of apples from the top ten apple producing countries is over US$3 billion a year.

More poignantly, Malus sieversii germplasm collected in the 1990s from Kazakhstan is currently being used by the USDA Agricultural Research Service to improve disease resistance in current apple cultivars. So far, researchers have discovered Malus sieversii samples that show resistance to apple scab, fire blight, drought and numerous soil pathogens. These research findings once again highlight the global importance of conserving the wild relatives of domesticated fruit and nut trees.

The good news is that it isn't too late that we can make a difference. The Independent reports:

FFI is already working in Kyrgyzstan to save and restore one of the most highly threatened apple species identified in the report, the Niedzwetzky apple (Malus niedzwetzkyana), as part of its Global Trees Campaign. Only 111 individuals of this tree are known to survive in Kyrgyzstan and the species features on the Red List as "endangered" - the second highest category of threat."

FFI is also working with local communities and government forest services in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to encourage sustainable use and more effective protection for forest resources, including providing training for community groups and grants for eco-friendly small businesses to assist local livelihoods.

But, I think NGOs such as FFI cannot do this alone. The United States, the European Union, and other nations have an interest in not only the stability and security of their country's and the world's food supply, but also with the potential spread of Taliban-inspired radical Islam in Central Asia.

So, perhaps in addition to the military payments and the USAID programs, the U.S. is funding in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan in 2009 that focus on each country's economic sector, healthcare system, and democratic institutions, I think we should also invest in helping them protecting their threatened forests and other ecosystems. Not only would we be helping the people of Central Asia, but we'd also be helping ourselves.

After all, I think it would be a terrible loss if we let a shrinking gene pool take away something as American as apple pie.

Cross-posted from Docudharma.

I apologize for this being written from an America-centric viewpoint. I generally refrain from cross-posing my U.S. pieces at ET, but I though this essay may be of possible interest here too.

Anyway, here's Obama's pro-pie platform:

by Magnifico on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 03:15:59 PM EST
America-centric or no, high quality diaries are alsways most welcome!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 9th, 2009 at 07:57:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, I just read a book called, "Apples are from Kazakhstan."  I had no idea about this before I picked up that book.  And not just because I thought apples were from the grocery store.  Where I grew up, we had an apple-picking tradition.  Every fall we'd drive to the orchards along the river and pick apples (and we NEVER managed to use them all, you couldn't even give them away, people were so sick of apples by mid-October) and reward ourselves with real apple cider (this simply cannot be found in a store) and then a meal of catfish.  It was Huckleberry Finn city.  Forget pie.  There was simply nothing more American than a September day on the river picking apples.  

So I was totally shocked to hear about Kazakhstan!  But there are like thousands of apple varieties, so while losing any is bad, I don't see a world without apples.  

And, this is also heartbreaking:  Apple pie is not an American invention...

Kazakhstan is a relatively well developed country compared to its Central Asian neighbors.  And like its neighbors, no aid is going to them without tit-for-tat.  Any offer to pay to save their orchards is probably going to have something in fine print about using their country to launch missiles or extract resources.  In fact, US Aid to that part of the world terrifies me more than the extinction of a few apple cultivars...

"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky

by poemless on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 03:37:50 PM EST
What makes the two apple species of Central Asia and the other wild species important is that they survive without the assistance of modern, industrial agriculture. These plants are not evolutionary frozen by humans and so they continue to evolve to match the evolution of pests and diseases.

We have thousands of apple, but for the most part according to Forsline, those apples just have six common ancestors: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, McIntosh ,and Pippin. This doesn't provide enough genetic diversity to be pest and disease resistant.

What also is special about these Central Asian fruit and nut trees is they survive in a more hostile climate than many of our domesticated versions. With climate change, such heartiness and drought-tolerance is important genetic traits.

So while a world without apples is unlikely,  losing these wild species significantly reduces the genes available for horticulturists to help our apples and other fruits and nuts meet new climate and blight challenges.


You're absolutely right the U.S. engages tit-for-tat economic aide. We currently have the Manas Air Base, in Kyrgyzstan that we use to conduct air strikes on the Taliban and, indirectly, Afghan civilians. Kyrgyzstani President Kurmanbek Bakiyev asked the U.S. to leave by April of this year, but as far as I know the U.S. is still there.

I'm not deliberately trying to make you wince at this, but according to Defense Update, Putin's Muscle Flexing in Central Asia: Challenges Obama:

Another absurdity pertains to the negotiations that the Pentagon is holding with Kyrgyzstan officials over a possible extension in maintaining Manas airbase itself. Manas, named after a Kyrgyz epic hero, gained particular importance for the United States in 2005 when Uzbekistan, another Central Asian nation, evicted U.S. troops from a military base Karshi-Kanabad airfield after a row over 'human rights'. The U.S. government paid the Kyrgys government $17.4 million a year for use of the Manas base, in addition to $150 million annual assistance, which makes a substantial sum in Kyrgyzstan's abominable economy.

This huge sum in itself, if handled wisely, should have become an important lever to get the Kyrgyzian politicians to extend the agreement for at least some years to come until the Afghan crisis is resolved. Moreover, unbelievably, only early last year, the United States government had authorized plans to spend up to $100 million to enlarge loading areas at Manas airbase! Washington and it's intelligence must have been off the mark completely, to become surprised by Bishkek's long expected move.

Saving Central Asia's forests are probably the last thing on the administration's mind.


Lastly, I know Apple pie is not an American invention -- I believe it is German -- I was struggling for a hook to try to make this interesting for American readers who really could care less about Central Asia, let alone fruit trees.

by Magnifico on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 04:00:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except for the pies and cider, apples could go extinct as far as I'm concerned. Raw ones, though delicious to eat, cause me major gastric distress.  Hard to make apple cider or pie without raw apples I guess.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 06:00:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is probably the apple peel that is the problem, it is one of those typical hard to digest stuff that causes stomach aches for many. So for you, I would suggest peeling the apple.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 06:38:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, that's good to know!

Wait, I thought all the nutrients were in the skin.

"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky

by poemless on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 06:40:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lots of nutrients are in the skin, but if you can not digest it properly, imho a peeled apple is better then no apple.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 07:30:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, if you buy the plastic-look-alike apples from the big supermarkets (you know what I'm talking about -the ones that can lie out in the open for a fortnight and still look fresh), you might want to remove the peel for other reasons as well...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 9th, 2009 at 12:39:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll have to try them without the peel. We always peel apples for our grandson who loves them.  They don't seem to bother him but his young system is fit for anything within reason.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 10:55:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the major advantages of apples, as compared to most other fruits, is that they reliably can be stored over the winter without mechanical refrigeration.  I would hate to lose the wild species for any reason, but for apples in particular.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 10th, 2009 at 01:04:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And, this is also heartbreaking:  Apple pie is not an American invention...

Neither is baseball, thankfully.

(And neither is the car, Mr President.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 11th, 2009 at 12:45:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apples are from Kazakhstan, and citrus is from China.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 11th, 2009 at 12:50:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What a good diary, Magnifico. The point about seed banks not efficiently preserving biodiversity is really important.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 04:41:35 PM EST
Absolutely seconded.  A brilliant diary.  I'm not sure freedom fries congress could deal with apples from Kazachstan.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 05:06:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i agree with both comments, great diary Magnifico. It is a very important topic. Though there are people who work to save the biodiversity - to many people are ignorant of it and its importance for health and in the end for survival of humans.
by Fran on Sat May 9th, 2009 at 09:45:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
does not go without reinstituting it in advanced countries. Why to ask peoples from developping countries to suffere inconveniences the developped ones are refusing to undergo?
(Not a critique against your article, which is excellent, and with which I agree...)

BTW, I heard some cultivars were obtained by crossing with local apples...

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 05:38:32 PM EST
I only can comment on the U.S. Despite the flaws in the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. does pretty well (not perfect) trying to protect threatened and endangered plants and animals.

I write this despite my disappointment today in the Obama administration's decision to keep the Bush administration rule on polar bears, for now. Basically the Department of the Interior, which has a conflicted interest mind you, agreed that the Endangered Species Act cannot be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps a more independent, critical assessment comes from Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki,. who recently wrote:

On the environment, he has appointed an outspoken advocate of ocean conservation to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, signed into law protection for over two million acres of wilderness, and made clear his intention to combat climate change, including a willingness to force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient and less-polluting cars.

Obama's commitment to implement the U.S. Endangered Species Act has received far less attention. Earlier this year, the U.S. government restored key endangered species protections that were stripped away by George Bush in the waning days of his administration. In particular, President Obama has reinstated rules that will ensure that government decisions or activities that might harm endangered species receive independent scientific scrutiny before they are allowed to go ahead.

In announcing the change, President Obama said: "Throughout our history, there's been a tension between those who've sought to conserve our natural resources for the benefit of future generations, and those who have sought to profit from these resources. But I'm here to tell you this is a false choice. With smart, sustainable policies, we can grow our economy today and preserve the environment for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren."

The president's support for the Endangered Species Act signals a 180-degree turn for the U.S. government. Under George Bush, the U.S. did just about everything in its power, including breaking the law, to eviscerate this critical piece of environmental legislation, enacted, ironically, by another right-wing Republican, Richard Nixon, more than 30 years ago.

One of the largest problems with the ESA, is that enforcement is left to the whims of the executive branch. So, when Americans put a cretin like Bush into office, attempts to protect and preserve endangered species is hampered, if not outright thwarted.

So at least from an American perspective, I think I'm not asking more from other nations than I demand of my own country.

by Magnifico on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 06:06:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
should be (re) introduced. The fauna of Europe and America is now very empoverished, although they are the richest places. So now that they conserve from a low mega fauna situation, while the mega fauna is getting finally exterminated where it still exists (there are plenty of tigers captive in Texas, true). A way out, and an example to the rest of the planet, is to find ways to live with dangerous fauna(all megafauna is dangerous). One does not see too many Californian ecological fanatics demonstrating to reintroduce the state symbol, found on the California flag, and still in the wilds there a century ago...
The Amur leopard could perhaps be put in the wilds somewhere north (Yukon? BC?)...

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/
by Patrice Ayme on Mon May 11th, 2009 at 01:08:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In some cases, that makes a lot of sense. In others... not so much. It kinda depends on when the fauna in question was exterminated. If it's several centuries ago, then you need to be rather careful, because the ecosystem may have relaxed to a new equilibrium.

Also, on a more technical note, new introductions really need to be screened for diseases and other invasive species who might tag along.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon May 11th, 2009 at 03:10:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the apple situation in Europe somehow different? Or grape? Or corn?
by asdf on Sat May 9th, 2009 at 09:36:30 AM EST
The UK maintains what it claims to be the largest collection/genetic resource of apples in the world (1882 varieties of apple, 93 of cider apple and 65 of crabapple) at the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent.  Its crab apples include a "Niedzwetzkyana Derivative", but I saw no trace of the Malus sieversii.

Also 39 varieties of vine (which isn't bad considering we're not really grape-growing territory).

by Sassafras on Sat May 9th, 2009 at 04:35:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a place you can buy antique apple trees (grafts, actually)...


by asdf on Sun May 10th, 2009 at 01:47:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As someone who´s spending next weekend looking at rural property in Spain - could anyone point me to European sources for ¨heirloom¨ plants and trees?  Are there any issues regarding importation of plant materials within the EU?  Outside?
by Coco on Tue May 12th, 2009 at 07:29:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd really want to look relatively locally - I could point you at an Irish source, but that would be entirely inappropriate for Spain.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 12th, 2009 at 07:40:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is still a market for Spanish rural property?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 12th, 2009 at 09:50:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why shouldn't there be? It's probably really cheap too...
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue May 12th, 2009 at 09:54:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
€10,000 per hectare for dry-crop land last time I checked.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 12th, 2009 at 10:09:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This site, fundacion-biodiversidad.es, may be a starting point. I wasn't able to find lists of plants, specifically, but there is contact information. Part of their mission is 'Conservation of natural heritage and biodiversity.'
by Magnifico on Tue May 12th, 2009 at 02:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quick google yielded:

Heirloom plant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the UK and Europe, it is thought that many Heritage vegetable varieties (perhaps over 2000) have been lost since the 1970s, when EU laws were passed to make it illegal to sell any vegetable cultivar that is not on a national list of any EU country. This was set up to help in eliminating dishonest seed suppliers selling one seed as another, and to keep any one variety true. Thus there were stringent tests to assess varieties, with a view to ensuring they remain the same from one generation to the next.

I do not know of any restrictions regarding moving plant material or part of dead animals to or around in the EU. Except when there are an outbreak, like mad cow.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 13th, 2009 at 07:47:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The humble grape originated there, too.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat May 9th, 2009 at 01:09:24 PM EST
And so we once again have our noses rubbed in what we already know: In-breeding eventually, inevitably, catastrophically collapses.  Ask the Republicans.
by rifek on Mon May 11th, 2009 at 09:49:20 AM EST

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