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Today is a day of festivities for all those who, in one way or the other, have been involved in the Nordic cooperation on plant genetic resources. This year, it’s namely 40 year since the Nordic Genebank was established. The day is celebrated with lectures, a book release, film screening and of course birthday cake in Alnarp.

The discussion concerning the need of safeguarding genetic resources in a genebank started already in the 1960’s, at a café table in Rome, according to Stig Blixt. But it was in 1979 that the Nordic Genebank was first established as an institution under the Nordic Council of Ministers. During the first years of its existence, the genebank focused on collecting genetic material. The scientist at that time travelled around the world to collect seeds from wild plants which could prove important for the Nordic agriculture.

"Today, we instead need to focus on the utilization of the green heritage that employees of the Nordic Genebank collected in during its first decades. But our work has never been as important as it is today. The solutions our seeds carry in their genes are essential for being able to tackle climate change", Lise Lykke Steffensen, NordGen's CEO, said in her opening speech.

Several lectures

After the opening words, several lectures discussed different aspects connected to the Nordic Genebank and the Nordic seed collection. Mats Hansson, from Lund University told the participants about how he uses the Nordic collection, perhaps more than anyone else, in his studies of barely varieties, in particular barley mutants. Søren K. Rasmussen of Copenhagen University gave a lecture describing the ongoing project with peas from NordGen. He underpinned the importance of peas as potent protein source for the future, enabling us to decrease our import of soybeans from abroad.

The afternoon continued with many more interesting lectures, addressing everything from the international perspectives to how NordGen’s grass seeds are used by private breeding companies and finished off with a reception featuring mingle, film screening and a light dinner. Last, but not least, the book “40 years of Nordic cooperation on Plant Genetic Resources” was released.

A digital copy of the book can also be downloaded here.