I didn't think to mention it earlier but Marco has a third starter culture, one that dates back to 1870. Marco decided not to release that culture to the wild, as he did with the Ischia and Camaldoli cultures. When he mentioned the existence of the third culture to the forum, one member went so far as to suggest that Marco release that culture to the world too. When Marco stood his ground, the member asked Marco if it was greed that kept him from doing so and said that he was baffled by Marco's reluctance to share his culture with others. The thread in which this exchange occurred eventually ended up being moved to the Moderator's board when Marco, it a fit of anger, deleted the content of several of his posts that rendered the thread unintelligible. In retrospect, it perhaps would have been a wiser course for Marco not to tease our members by telling them that he had another really good culture in the back room.
One of the major problems with sourdough cultures is that things that occur in nature can't be patented. Trademarks and copyright aren't going to be of much help in stopping cloning. So, that pretty much leaves trade secret as the best way to protect a culture. But once it is released, there is essentially no way left to stop anyone from cloning the culture. In Ed Wood's case, he at least has a solid reputation in the field, and he appears to be a good and trustworthy steward of the cultures that have been entrusted to him from sources all around the world. And he is a first generation custodian of the two Italian cultures. These considerations alone may be enough for most people to buy from him instead of from questionable or untested third parties who sell clones. And, for $20 for the two cultures (http://www.sourdo.com/home/cultures/italian-cultures-includes-two/
), it isn't like Ed is ripping people off, although we have had some members complain about the price. It would be interesting to know why Amazon is no longer offering the competing cultures.