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Deskilling, agrodiversity, and the seed trade: a view from contemporary British allotments

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  • Paul Gilbert

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    Abstract

    Over the last half-century, quality control standards have had the perverse effect of restricting the circulation of non-commercially bred vegetable cultivars in Britain. Recent European and British legislation attempts to compensate for this loss of agrodiversity by relaxing genetic purity standards and the cost of seed marketing for designated “Amateur” and “Conservation” varieties. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at a British allotment site, this article cautions against bringing genetically heterogeneous cultivars into the commercial sphere. Such a move may intensify the horticultural “deskilling” of British allotment gardeners, who have come to rely on commercial seed catalogs as sources of germplasm and knowledge. Horticultural deskilling also entails the delegation of seed selection activities to professional breeders and the potential loss of agrodiversity. The activities of dedicated seed savers who save and circulate the seed of genetically heterogeneous “heritage” varieties, in a manner similar to the management of landraces in the global South, may provide a better model for attempts to safeguard vegetable diversity in the global North. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10460-012-9380-z
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 30 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 101-114

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:30:y:2013:i:1:p:101-114

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    Web page: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/10460

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    Related research

    Keywords: Agrodiversity; Deskilling; British allotments; Seed saving; Standardization;

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    1. Elizabeth C Dunn, 2003. "Trojan pig: paradoxes of food safety regulation," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 35(8), pages 1493-1511, August.
    2. JoAnn Jaffe & Michael Gertler, 2006. "Victual Vicissitudes: Consumer Deskilling and the (Gendered) Transformation of Food Systems," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 143-162, 06.
    3. Humphries, Jane, 1990. "Enclosures, Common Rights, and Women: The Proletarianization of Families in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(01), pages 17-42, March.
    4. C. Dolan & J. Humphrey, 2000. "Governance and Trade in Fresh Vegetables: The Impact of UK Supermarkets on the African Horticulture Industry," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(2), pages 147-176.
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