I’m often struck by how many important things are going on behind the scenes of our daily lives- and how little we know about those very important things. Quick test of this fact:
- Google “iPad” – you get around 52MM hits.
- Now google “Ug99 fungus” – you get less than 50K hits.
Which one of those two could lead to a billion deaths worldwide unless stopped soon? Despite what the Oranges (Apple-haters) think, it ain’t something Steve Jobs built.
Wired has an amazing article on the spread of the Ug99 fungus, a stem rust plague that could decimate worldwide wheat production- as it did in the past. Science beat it before (it was an important part of Norman Borlaug’s Nobel Prize winning, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties) but it’s back, and we’re racing to beat it again. From Wired:
- “This distinct new race of P. graminis, dubbed Ug99 after its country of origin (Uganda) and year of christening (1999), is storming east, working its way through Africa and the Middle East and threatening India and China. More than a billion lives are at stake. “It’s an absolute game-changer,” says Brian Steffenson, a cereal-disease expert at the University of Minnesota who travels to Njoro regularly to observe the enemy in the wild. “The pathogen takes out pretty much everything we have.”
- “Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s wheat has little or no protection against the Ug99 race of P. graminis. If nothing is done to slow the pathogen, famines could soon become the norm — from the Red Sea to the Mongolian steppe — as Ug99 annihilates a crop that provides a third of our calories. China and India, the world’s biggest wheat consumers, will once again face the threat of mass starvation, especially among their rural poor. The situation will be particularly grim in Pakistan and Afghanistan, two nations that rely heavily on wheat for sustenance and are in no position to bear added woe. Their fragile governments may not be able to survive the onslaught of Ug99 and its attendant turmoil.”
How much do our lives depend on unforeseen innovation? A great deal I suppose…..