Genetic Diversity Key to Solving Future Global Challenges
DuPont today urged the world’s largest gathering of biotechnology leaders to ensure the availability of the genetic material needed to develop crops that will meet the unforeseen challenges of future generations.
“Biotechnology will help us develop solutions to challenges that we have yet to imagine, but the potential will be limited without access to historic genetic resources,” said Stephen Smith, a DuPont scientist and leading expert on plant genetic diversity, at the BIO 2007 International Convention.
DuPont was one of the first companies to pledge $1 million to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international fund charged with securing long-term funding for the support of genebanks and crop genetic diversity collections throughout the world. Just recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged their support for the Trust’s mission with a $30 million grant and the government of Norway raised its donation to $15 million.
“The conservation and availability of crop diversity is absolutely critical to assuring an abundant and affordable food supply for people everywhere,” said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. “If we continue to neglect crop genetic diversity, it will be lost forever.”
Founded in 2001 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Bioversity International, on behalf of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), the Trust is raising a $260 million endowment to maintain the world’s most critical germplasm for agricultural crops as well as building the capacity of crucial collections in developing countries.
“As researchers in the public and private sector gain a better understanding of the genetic language of crops, we will be better suited to use the latest biotech tools, such as genomics and molecular markers, to develop solutions to the challenges of future generations,” said Smith. “If plant genetic resources are not properly conserved, it will be like learning how to read and then going to the library to find no books on the shelves.”
Funding from the Global Crop Diversity Trust will support the operations of a “doomsday vault” built into the permafrost in the Norwegian Arctic that will have the capacity to store three million seed samples, representing a vast range of genetic variety from the world’s key crops. The complex is intended to safeguard the global food supply in the event of disaster.
The mission of the Global Crop Diversity Trust is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Although crop diversity is fundamental to fighting hunger and to the very future of agriculture, funding for conservation is unreliable and diversity is being lost. An independent international organization, established through a partnership between the CGIAR and FAO, the Trust is the only organization working worldwide to solve this problem. For further information, visit www.croptrust.org .
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