FERN’s Friday Feed: The legacy of Sweden’s women shepherds

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

In Sweden, why calling home the herd was ‘woman’s work’


“Herding cultures exist all over the world, but one thing separates the Nordic fäbod culture,” writes Jennie Tiderman-Österberg. “Here, the shepherd was a woman, keeping her herd safe from predators, milking the cows and goats, keeping up the household and buildings, making cheese and other milk products. She could not make mistakes. The death of an animal would lead to drastic shortages. A simple error in the production of butter, cheese and whey products could bring her family to starve in winter.”

Can the ‘friendly’ fall armyworm stop a global farm plague?


“A British biotech firm that developed a genetically modified mosquito to fight dengue fever and other blood-borne diseases in Florida and Texas now has introduced a self-destructing GM caterpillar,” writes Eric Niiler. “Their aim is to stop a pest that is devastating corn and rice crops across the globe.”

The story of Japan’s sour, bitter and exquisitely delicious sanbokan fruit


“Wakayama is commonly referred to within Japan as ‘The Fruit Kingdom.’ And among the prefecture’s myriad varieties of juicy sweet mandarins, oranges and tangelos … one rare citrus stands out: the exceedingly sour and bitter, yet exquisitely delicious, sanbokan,” writes Tom Schiller. “Scientists have no idea how this unique citrus formed … But according to legend, it comes from a single tree that grew inside the castle of the former feudal lords who ruled Wakayama prefecture until 1867.”

Claims of slavery, child labor and rape haunt pursuit of palm oil

The Associated Press

“An Associated Press investigation found … an invisible workforce consisting of millions of laborers from some of the poorest corners of Asia, many of them enduring various forms of exploitation, with the most serious abuses including child labor, outright slavery and allegations of rape,” write Margie Mason and Robin McDowell. This workforce supplies the “palm oil fruit that has made its way into the supply chains of the planet’s most iconic food and cosmetic companies like Unilever, L’Oreal, Nestle and Procter & Gamble.”

Could planetary ‘safety net’ stem biodiversity loss?

The Guardian

Last month, “a UN report revealed that the international community had failed to fully achieve any of the 20 biodiversity targets agreed in 2010,” writes Niko Kommenda. “But scientists at the environmental research organisation Resolve have drawn up a blueprint for a planetary ‘safety net’ of protected areas they say could help halt catastrophic biodiversity loss.” If implemented, the protected areas would span more than 50 percent the world’s land mass.