Apr 11, 2022
The advent of agriculture over 10,000 years ago forever altered the trajectory of humanity. Communities grew larger until cities and nations dotted the landscape, labor became specialized, new diseases emerged, civilizations flourished and vanished, warfare increased in scale and lethality, and people colonized every corner of the globe. Agriculture facilitated the exponential growth of the human population, which necessitated ever greater efficiency and productivity and eventually led to the industrialization of farming. But this efficiency has come at a cost – the loss of crop varieties and the local knowledge and cultural practices associated with those crops. With us to understand these radical changes in agricultural practices, and their implications for society, is Helen Anne Curry. Helen is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Churchill College. Her research focuses on the histories of seeds, crop science, and industrial agriculture. She is author of Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth Century America and Endangered Maize: Industrial Agriculture and the Crisis of Extinction.