Genebanks shenebanks

Why bother building and maintaining huge robotic genebanks, I hear you ask? They’ll just take over the world and we’ll end up having to deal with the Terminator in a few years’ time, no? Well, as it happens there are two pieces today on the Worldwatch Institute’s blog which explain the reasons. Yassir Islam of HarvestPlus says that researchers are “scour[ing] seed banks to find seeds that contain the desired nutrients and then breed these into popular varieties using conventional methods.” And Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust turns to Ug99:

Where do you suppose scientists are looking for a way to deal with the disease? Just as Professor Borlaug did, they are screening hundreds of varieties of wheat to find one that shows resistance to the disease. Where would we turn if we did not have that diversity available in genebanks?

What more do you need? Oh yeah:

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that a third of all genetic resources for food and agriculture have already been lost in the last 100 years.

Right. But at least it’s an improvement on 75%.

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