From Use of Germplasm to Money for Maintenance and Collection of Germplasm

The overall impact of these changes has been a small increase in the use of ex situ collections of rice germplasm and wild and weedy relatives. This has not yet led to major increases in funding for germplasm collection and maintenance. Funding for IRRI's germplasm conservation, dissemination and evaluation has remained constant in recent years with the exception of a 1994 grant of US $3.3 million from the Swiss government for the collection of landrace varieties and wild species. The objective of the project is to complete the collection of rice germplasm before the turn of the century. Although IRRI is coordinating the work, it is actually being carried out in the national programmes and funds go to those programmes for this endeavour (M. Jackson, personal communication, 1996).

Over the last decade, national governments have paid more attention to germplasm preservation. In the 1980s, China, with the assistance of the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank, built up its national gene bank. At about the same time, India, with the assistance of the USAID made major investments in improved gene banks under their National Board for Plant Genetic Resources. These investments were induced by the increasing awareness of the value of biodiversity and were partially due to the fact that the environment is the latest development fad among donors. The awareness of the value of biodiversity is due in part to the well-publicized developments in biotechnology, but the concerns about being dependent on foreign germplasm collections and multinational seed companies were probably more immediate causes of the interest in ex situ preservation.

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