Seed banks and gene banks

As discussed in Chapter 8 in this book, gene banks are a relatively inexpensive means of conserving genetic resources with the potential to be an effective means of conserving option values associated with genetic resources of known species. Costs of conservation vary by crop and consist of a large fixed cost component, indicating a need for greater coordination and in some cases consolidation for more effective management (Pardey et al., 1998). An important coordinating mechanism for ex situ sites is the International Network of Ex Situ Collections managed under the auspices of FAO. This network involved

12 centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which placed most of their collections (some 500,000 accessions) into the International Network. The participants agreed to hold the designated germplasm "in trust for the benefit of the international community," and "not to claim ownership, or seek intellectual property rights, over the designated germplasm and related information."

Ex situ collections range in the degree to which they are accessible to local populations, from small community seed banks, highly dependent on frequent flows of seeds in and out of the community, to government and international collections tending to be more remote but with a much wider scope of coverage. Experience from the field has indicated that seed banks need to be more closely aligned with farming communities, as well as integrated into ongoing research activities carried out by research institutions. A framework for cooperative relationships between public and private gene banks and breeders collections should be established, but the details of such a framework are subject to further research.

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