"They are kept by very poor people, and they don’t want to stay poor"

I have thought for a long time that one major reason for globalization is that everyone in the world wants the same things. Most regional diversity results from scarcity, not preference. McDonalds, for example, takes over because fast, greasy food is what most people actually want. Seen that way, global homogenization is fulfillment, not loss. That doesn’t keep it from being very depressing.

This New York Times article on African Akyole cattle does a really nice job of explaining the trade-offs of modernizing agriculture, and, in my opinion, the dangers of public-private partnerships. Excerpts (emphasis mine):

“For countries on the equator, I think in almost all cases the Holstein is very poorly suited — maybe the least-suited breed,” says Dr. Les Hansen, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a leading expert in cattle genetics. Often farmers are making decisions that are informed not by science, he said, but by sales pitches devised by multinational breeding concerns. “As I travel the world,” Hansen adds, “my biggest challenge is countering all of the misleading marketing propaganda.”


Many tropical breeds may possess unique adaptive traits. The problem is, we don’t know what is being lost. Earlier this year, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization released its first-ever global assessment of biodiversity in livestock. While data on many breeds are scant, the report found that over the last six years, an average of one breed a month has gone extinct. “The threat is imminent,” says Danielle Nierenberg, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental group. “Just getting milk and meat into people’s mouths is not the answer.