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.
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.
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 resistance 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.
Organized preservation of genetic resources is a prerequisite for future generations to be able to breed crop varieties and face new challenges. We do not as yet know everything about future demands for crop varieties, but we do know that they will have to be part of a more environmentally friendly cultivation system, be of better quality and have improved resistances, especially when it comes to meeting the challange of climate change we currently face.
A preserved variety without accompanying information on its characteristics nad provenance is of limited value. The information attached to each single seed source is immensely valuable and is held in NordGen’s publicly accessible genetic database.
Our local varieties are of enormous cultural and historical value and tell us how earlier generations lived, cultivated, ate, enjoyed and reasoned. The cultural and historical perspectives play an important part in NordGen’s preservation practices.