Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, December 19, 2003

Keep this in mind when buying holiday nuts...

Brazil nuts, which are exclusively colected from the rainforest, are being harvested unsustainably.

Apparently these trees, which can reach huge height and live for centuries (but produce for much less than that) are being overharvested. They are extremely difficult to grow commercially because they are dependent upon one species of bee strong enough to pollinate open their flowers for pollination, and the agouti, a rodent whose strong teeth can open open the grapefruit-sized pods that hold 25 or so of the nuts.

And you thought those thin but rock-hard shells were hard to crack! Apparently the trees are just made very, very durable down to the very flowers! Frigid trees?

So, there's a very delicate balance. A lot of trees are too young to produce. If we harvest to the point where seedlings can't be buried and grow, then years down the road there will be no more trees.

Of course, it's one of those crops that could save the rainforest because they can only be gathered in any numbers in the wild. So, it's a Catch-22. I think the best thing is to develop sustainable harvesting in situ, with notices to consumer that the nuts were harvested with sustainable practices, much like the coffee I get at the co-op is shade-grown, which is important for migrating songbirds.

Where's the Lorax when we need him?

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