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Maize: the Native North American's legacy of cultural diversity and biodiversity

By S. K. Wertz

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Recent research has focused on establishing the values of preserving biodiversity both in agriculture and in less managed ecosystems, and in showing the importance of the role of cultural diversity in preserving biodiversity in food production systems. A study of the philosophy embedded in cultural systems can reveal the importance of the technological information for preserving genetic biodiversity contained in such systems and can be used to support arguments for the protection/preservation of cultural diversity. For example, corn or maize can serve as a paradigm of Native American thinking and can provide one of the few areas from which common philosophical conceptions can emerge. An examination of the cultivation of corn or maize as an agricultural activity and as a cultural activity in Native American literature reveals a philosophy that recognizes the importance of biodiversity and provides techniques for its preservation. Corn, and the food and the materials derived from it, is something thought out, not by specialists, but by the entire tribe and its ancestors, even if this thinking is done within what we might consider a framework of highly mythical notions. Importantly, this framework yields an understanding of both the genetics and nutrition of corn. A survey of these mythical notions (myths and stories) and agricultural practices makes this thought explicit and exemplifies the value of cultural diversity and biodiversity.

Date 2005
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 18
Issue 2
Pages 131-156
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1007/s10806-005-0635-1
Language English
Author Address Philosophy Department, Texas Christian University, TCU Box 297250, Fort Worth, TX 76129, USA.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Biodiversity
  2. Biological resources
  3. Corn
  4. Field crops
  5. Grasses
  6. Maize
  7. multiculturalism
  8. North America
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Plants
  11. Reviews
  12. Social psychology and social anthropology
  13. Societies
  14. United States of America
  1. peer-reviewed