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Hysterical brew

More hysteria, this time in a coffee cup. People at Kew Gardens in London really should know better than this. 60% of the world’s 124 known species of coffee plants are “on the edge of extinction” they assert.

This is, to put it politely, crap. The BBC (along with all the other media outlets who reported this without critical analysis or evaluation) took some research from CGIAR, a multinational government-funded entity whose main mission is self-preservation – although of course it doesn’t say that.

CGIAR must perpetually demonstrate relevance, or the government donors lose interest. What can it do to get media coverage? Oh yes, let’s scare the shit out of people who are addicted to their morning coffee. “On the edge of extinction” sounds really scary. Add in the phrases “because of deforestation” and “because of climate change” and you can guarantee that the conventional media will lap the story up like a cat its cream.

We don’t. Dig deeper and you discover that the real crisis is in Madagascar, where as many as 43 species of coffee tree are threatened. Madagascar’s annual coffee production, mostly of the lower grade robusta type, is about 30,000 tonnes, which puts it at number 23 in the list of biggest producers. It’s a peanut in the world’s production – compare it to the giant, Brazil, which annually pumps out 2.5 million tonnes. Look at the research behind this story and you discover that of the big producers of coffee there’s not a major extinction threat – on the edge or otherwise – at all.