Conserving Our Genetic Resources for a More Food Secure Future


Last week the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its new report, “State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,” warning that the failure to conserve wild plant varieties related to crops grown for human consumption are a threat to world food security.

The genetic information held in wild crop varieties, according to  the report, is critical for developing new crop varieties that are high yielding, fast-growing, and resistant to heat, drought, pests, and disease. In the face of climate change, says the report, loss of biodiversity drastically impacts the world’s ability to feed itself.

“There are thousands of crop wild relatives that still need to be collected, studied and documented because they hold genetic secrets that enable them to resist heat, droughts, salinity, floods and pests,” said Jacques Diouf, the FAO Director-General in conjuncture with the release of the report.

Fifty percent of the increase in crop yields in recent years has been a result of new seed varieties, made possible by the availability of diverse genetic resources contained in wild varieties. The report calls for renewed interest and capacity to conserve and utilize existing biodiversity in order to ensure future farm adaptability is possible and future food security is protected.
Molly Theobald
Molly Theobald is a Research Fellow with the Worldwatch Institute working with the Food & Agriculture team on State of the World 2011: Nourishing the Planet. Molly brings her skills as former Labor 2008 Pennsylvania State Communications Director for the National AFL-CIO, and her experience working on women's issues, to her research and writing for Worldwatch where she focuses on sustainable agriculture as a means to alleviate hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. She has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in Women's Studies and Social Justice.
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