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Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Utilization: The Accomplishments and Future of a Societal Insurance Policy

Gepts, P.
Crop science 2006 v.46 no.5 pp. 2278-2292
crops, plant genetic resources, genetic variation, genotype, resource management, genetic drift, cultivars, international law, agricultural policy, germplasm conservation, geographic information systems, genetic markers, biomarkers, plant breeding, phenotype, phenotypic variation, intellectual property rights, traditional farming, indigenous knowledge, biodiversity
Concerns about the genetic erosion of crop genetic resources (CGR) were first articulated by scientists in the mid-20th century and have since become an important part of national policies and international treaties. The C-8 (Plant Genetic Resources) section of the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) was created in 1990 in response to these concerns. Over the last 50 yr, both ex situ and in situ conservation have been set up to maintain threatened CGR. During this period, a set of tools (core collections, molecular markers, and geographic information systems) has been adopted to facilitate conservation and utilization by breeders. Current and future trends include characterization of the genotypic basis of phenotypic variation and the evolutionary, ecological, and human factors that have shaped CGR. The intellectual property regime to which CGR are subjected since 1980 has limited the exchange of germplasm. It remains to be seen if these regimes will evolve so as to achieve basic goals of conservation of genetic diversity and traditional knowledge associated with diversity, while at the same time reward breeders and farmers. Funding of biodiversity conservation remains a critical point. Finally, broadening the conservation circle to establish closer collaborations with grassroots conservation movements and community seed banks is necessary to better conserve the broad range of CGR and as an essential starting point for participatory breeding efforts.