February 18, 2009

Trust to save food crops from extinction

Italy's Global Crop Diversity Trust says it has collected about 53,000 seed samples of the 100,000 varieties of food crops it wants to save from extinction.

The biological rescue effort is designed to preserve the availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. It involves food crops from 46 nations and is one of the largest such programs ever undertaken.

We are moving quickly to regenerate and preserve seed samples representing thousands of distinct varieties of critical food crops like rice, maize and wheat "¦ 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.

The 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.

After the seeds have been regenerated, three sample lots are prepared. One remains in the regeneration gene bank, another is sent to a gene bank meeting international standards for seed preservation and the third copy is sent to the so-called Doomsday Vault in Norway as part of a fail-safe collection of the world's agricultural biodiversity.