Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables

Each year, we throw away over 300 million tons of fruit and vegetables worldwide mainly because they do not conform to retail standards of perfection (57% of total waste). The European Union has made 2014 the European year against food waste; and  Intermarché the 3rd largest supermarket chain in France decided to try and change their customers perceptions to encourage better behaviour towards imperfect fruit and vegetables by showing them that though they might be ugly, they are just as good to eat!

Intermarché made every effort to celebrate 5 “fruits et legumes moches” or “inglorious fruits and vegetables”. They received their own print and film campaign, their own local poster and radio campaign, their own in-store branding, their own aisle in store, their own labelling, and their own spot on the sales receipt. Finally, for people to realise that they were just as good as the others, Intermarché designed and distributed inglorious vegetable soups and inglorious fruit juices in-store.

The campaign celebrated the beauty of the Grotesque Apple, the Ridiculous Potato, the Hideous Orange, the Failed Lemon, the Disfigured Eggplant, the Ugly Carrot, and the Unfortunate Clementine. Intermarché bought from its growers the products they usually throw away, and sold them in-store just like any other, but 30% cheaper and making them far more attractive to their consumers. They sold on average 1.2 tonnes per store in the first 2 days of the campaign, increased store traffic by over 24%, and reached over 1.3 million people with the publicity they received! “Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables”, a glorious fight against food waste!


The Open Source Seed Intitiative

I have just completed reading Lisa Hamilton’s aptly titled article, Linux for Lettuce, in VQR: A National Journal of Literature and Discussion. The article explores the beginnings of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) by a handful of practical farming academics and plant breeders in reaction to companies like Monsanto and their unscrupulous race to patent life.

 Fueled by both frustration and outrage, Myers, Morton, and Goldman helped establish a subtly radical group called the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) in 2012. Operating under the radar, its mission was to reestablish free exchange by creating a reservoir of seed that couldn’t be patented—“a national park of germplasm,” Goldman called it. By 2013, the group had two dozen members, several of them distinguished plant breeders from public universities across the country.

OSSI’s de facto leader is Jack Kloppenburg, a social scientist at the University of Wisconsin who has been involved with issues concerning plant genetic resources since the 1980s. He has published widely about the concept behind OSSI, and his words are now echoed (even copied verbatim) by public plant-breeding advocates in Germany, France, and India. As he explains it, for most of human history, seeds have naturally been part of the commons—those natural resources that are inherently public, like air or sunshine. But with the advent of plant-related intellectual property and the ownership it enables, this particular part of the commons has become a resource to be mined for private gain. Thus the need for a protected commons—open-source seed. Inspired by open-source software, OSSI’s idea is to use “the master’s tools” of intellectual property, but in ways the master never intended: to create and enforce an ethic of sharing.” 

Please take the time to read what is a very well written and informative article on the issues of plant patents versus seed sovereignty.