100,000 crop varieties to be saved from extinction in historys biggest biological rescue effort

February 16th, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 16 (ANI): The Global Crop Diversity Trust has announced that it is on track to save from extinction 100,000 different varieties of food crops from 46 countries, making it one of the largest and most successful biological rescue efforts ever undertaken in history.

We are moving quickly to regenerate and preserve seed samples representing thousands of distinct varieties of critical food crops like rice, maize, and wheat in 46 countries that were well on their way to total extinction, said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Trust.

I think it is fair to say that without this effort, many of them would have been lost forever, he added.

In many countries, stresses as mundane as poor refrigeration and inadequate funding and as dramatic as war and economic collapse threaten seed collections of crop varieties that do not exist anywhere else in the world.

The imperiled seeds targeted for rescue by the Trust are samples of staple crops stored in crop gene banks in Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Central and South America.

They include rare varieties of barley, wheat, rice, banana,/plantain, potato, cassava, chickpea, maize, lentil, bean, sorghum, millet, coconut, breadfruit, cowpea and yam.

According to Fowler, the Trust already has agreements in place with 49 institutes in 46 countries to rescue some 53,000 of the 100,000 crop samples identified as endangered.

The initiative is one of the biggest rescue efforts ever of any threatened biological species and by far the largest rescue of endangered domesticated crop varieties.

While many of the imperiled varieties may no longer be growing in farmers fieldsand exist only in seed collections they could be critically important to the future of global food production.

For example, farmers in the developing world desperately need new crop varieties that can help them overcome pests and diseases, poor soils, and rapidly changing climate conditions while keeping pace with the food demands of a growing population.

The plant breeders they turn to for help depend on publicly-accessible national, regional and international crop gene banks to provide them with the widest variety of genetic traits that can allow farmers to overcome these challenges.

Growing conditions and food demands change rapidly and breeders never know which variety stored in a crop gene bank somewhere in the world is going to be that proverbial needle in the haystack that will provide the critical trait that can literally make the difference between abundance and starvation, said Fowler.

So, while these seeds being saved represent crop varieties from the past, they could easily play a role in the crops of the future, he added. (ANI)

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