Our daily bread. A history of the cereals
Behind the demands of a baker for good bread and the brewer for good beer there are genetic variants that human beings have observed, preserved and developed. Through more than ten thousand years people around the globe have produced a vast biological diversity in our cultivated crop plants. Our Daily Bread tells this diverse history. Plant DNA reveals layers of history that supplement traditional archaeology.
The world has three great grain cultures: the Asian based on rice, the American based on maize and the Eurasian based on wheat, rye, barley and oats. In Europe these have divided the continent into three bread zones: wheat in the West, rye in the East and barley or oats in the North. All originated in the Middle East. A few thousand years later they were grown to 70 degrees N in Norway and to 4000 meters in Ethiopia. Which mutations made this possible? What mutations enabled the phenomenal increases in grain production in the 20th century? Will this trend continue, so that the world can feed itself in 2050, when grains must not only feed us, but also supply raw materials and fuel to a bioeconomy?
“This beautiful masterpiece of text will take a place of honour in my personal library.” – Dr. Alain Bonjean, Director General of Groupe Limagrain in China and editor of The World Wheat Book
“Two messages of the book are that we cannot eat money and we do not live from bread alone, but cannot live without it. The book appeals to all involved in crop plant research, production and processing, to policy makers, teachers, students and all those interested in culture and core issues of human existence. [The] enthusiastic, thoughtful, artistic, informative multidimensional (…) approach makes this book unique.” – Dr. Axel Diederichsen, in Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 2012
“Many people today equate ‘biodiversity’ with whales and tigers and anything found in their image of a tropical forest… Biodiversity is visualized as the diversity between species. Not the diversity within species. It is pristine ‘wild’ diversity, not the diversity of mundane beans. Not the several hundred thousand different types (‘populations’) of rice or the 200,000 different types of wheat. It is this diversity that fuels continued evolution in the crops that feed us. DNA fingerprinting and sequencing is not only concerned with looming diseases or crimes. Many of the genetic mutations in this diversity are daily on our plates and palates. It is this diversity – presented in this book – that ‘stands between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we cannot imagine’, in Jack Harlan’s memorable words.” – From the Preface by Dr. Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Rome