NordGen

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

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Why conserve plant genetic resources?

What are plant genetic resources?

Genetic resources are, according to the international convention for biodiversity, living material that includes genes of present and potential value for humans. Plant genetic resources includes all our agricultural crops and even some of their wild relatives because they too often have valuable traits.

Why conserve plant genetic resources?

Only a few crops are used in modern agriculture and these often have a narrow genetic base. This contrasts with the large number of land races with a substantial genetic variation used by earlier generations. If we do not counteract the increasing genetic impoverishment it may have serious consequences, especially when facing a changed climate.

Genetic variation is irretrievable

It has been shown that crop varieties with a narrow genetic base can be completely destroyed by diseases. The plant breeders must then go back to older varieties or closely related wild species in order to find resistant genes for the disease in question. Not even advanced gene technology can replace natural variation, with its abundance of genes and gene interactions. Gene interaction is irreplaceable and without it no breeding can take place.

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