In a letter to PNG's The National this week, there is a timely reminder not to let traditional crops languish in favour of newer, so-called 'better' varieties.
What dreadful catastrophe will occur if there’s a famine in a heavily populated area of PNG? The current situation in the Trobriands is a classic example of what happens when too many people meet too little food.
Here’s the letter, from Gene Drekeke
Iyovo, who happens to live, for the time being anyway, in
I REFER to the report ‘K5 million to revive potato industry’ (Sept 23). I have two main concerns with regard to potato. The first is it will replace all traditional starchy food sources like organic sweet potato, yam and taro.
A good example is the traditional sweet potato varieties in PNG are now extinct. These varieties were the best for many reasons. They were tolerant to drought, cold and heat, and it took between six and nine months to harvest.
Unfortunately, these varieties were wiped off by a new variety ‘three mun kaukau’, which can be harvested within three months as the name suggests. However, this variety is not tolerant to dry spells or cold and wet conditions.
The other fear is potato itself. If the potato is genetically modified (GM) and needs fertiliser, then it would be a disaster. The GM crop will affect any plants in its surroundings by pollination, suppress plant health and divert microbe activities on land fertility.
The potato industry will serve foreign interest through fertiliser and pathology. Pathologists will design new diseases and spread them through potato seeds and then have you pay more for the cure you desperately need.
While you are in
the potato business, who is going to care for the sweet
potato, banana, yam and taro? The same applies to cabbage, broccoli, carrot, etc.
Farmers are not supposed to be led to believe that an artificial crop is their saviour. This does not mean potato is not a healthy industry. Today's technology and science have led to total manipulation of a crop in your garden.
Rather I would support traditional pest, disease, drought and dry resistant food crops handed down from my forefathers.
Well, I don’t know about the claim of deliberately introducing diseases, but the general point about relinquishing the old for the new without fully understanding the consequences seems fair. We need lapun didiman to comment here.