Thursday, October 30, 2014

Conserving diversity, conserving options

Marie Haga, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), said that rescuing and conserving crop genetic diversity means giving our generation, and the next, the means to protect our sources of food.

“Genetic diversity is the prerequisite to food security. It is where the traits that help agriculture adapt to challenges of the future will be coming from,” said Haga.

Haga was the first plenary speaker at the ongoing 4th International Rice Congress, which has gathered 1,500 participants from 69 countries, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Haga also said that China and India have lost 90% of their rice varieties since the 1950s and 1900s, respectively. On this note, she talked about her organization's efforts to help national and regional research systems conserve genetic diversity through genebanks.

“Every crop variety lost to extinction means one less option for humanity,” she said.

GCDT has successfully provided an "ultimate backup" to the crop genetic diversity conserved in thousands of genebanks all over the world. The Global Seed Vault located in Svalbard, Norway, now conserves in trust around 835,000crop varieties. The Svalbard collection includes a duplicate of a huge part of the collection at the IRRI Genebank.

Ms. Haga also noted IRRI Genetic Resources Center's protocol in conserving rice. "IRRI is the jewel in the crown of conservation. They do everything right," Haga said. She further note that IRRI is by far the only organization whose conservation protocol is up to GCDT's standards.

Haga also talked about the GCDT's platform for sharing phenotypic and genotypic data from conserved germsplasm through a database called DivSeek.

Around 1,500 participants from 69 countries are attending the 4th International Rice Congress, or IRC2014, at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC).

IRC2014 is being held under the patronage of the Royal Government of Thailand, specifically the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and is touted as the “Olympics of rice science,” being the largest gathering of rice science and industry held every four years. 

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