National Geographic : 1991 Apr
groves of nutmeg and clove trees-to keep prices high and to cut their competitors out of the market. And a sticky disagreement persists over rubber trees the British transplanted from Brazil in 1876, transforming millions of acres in their Asian colonies into lucrative rub ber plantations. sovereignty, I found an astonishing degree of cooperation among scien tists and governments. In 1988 the USDA distributed 30,000 samples of seeds and cuttings to some 80 countries. If war or famine destroys native crops, international seed banks can replace them. Valuable potato varieties were lost to Bolivia after workers at the Belen seed bank rose up in protest over low wages and ate the national collection. The International Potato Center sent duplicates of the most important varieties to replenish the supply. Many of Cambodia's indigenous food plants were lost in the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the late 1970s. When that strife finally subsided, the International Rice Research Institute dipped into its reserves, returning more than 400 rice varieties to Cambodia, so the country could make a new start. The spirit of reciprocity has been captured in a traditional Asian saying: "You cannot pick up a grain of rice with one finger alone." Rice production in the Philippines has doubled since 1966 following the green revolution, in which careful crossbreeding produced high yielding "miracle seeds." Though largely self sufficient since 1977, the country had to import rice in 1990 (above) because of drought and typhoons. Despite advances, rapid popu lation growth and ruralpoverty have forced many families, like this one in a Manila slum, from field to city in search of work.