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Seed banks can tackle global food crisis says study

Chicago, August 11, 2008

Drought-tolerant seeds from the seed banks could be the solution to world food shortages in a time of climate change, according to a study by Native Seeds/SEARCH, a 25-year-old non-profit organisation.

Three-quarters of the food supply currently relies on just nine crop species and not all of them grow well in extreme climates, the study said.

The nine crop species are wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, millet, potatoes, sweet potatoes, soybeans and sugar. Of these wheat, rice and corn provide half the world’s energy intake, Native Seeds/SEARCH executive director Bryn Jones said.

But rare and endangered seeds unique to the southwestern United States could help eliminate the world’s food-supply problems, she pointed out.

Native Seeds/SEARCH collects, saves and distributes wild and agricultural seeds, runs demonstration gardens, helps with water harvesting and tests crops.

It has a seed bank that maintains the stock and encourages the use of well-suited crops to a region for their inherent ability to produce in the conditions you have,’ observed Mary Irish, a board member and former employee at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

The Tucson-based seed bank collects sunflowers from the San Carlos Reservation, tepary beans from the Gila River area and peas from the Tohono O’odham people.

’Whether critical ones like the grains or more minor ones like vegetables or herbs, you maintain the wide genetic variability that will enable them to withstand changing conditions.

’Native Seeds/SEARCH is part of a growing network of such organizations and efforts that will all collectively have a great impact on the global food supply,’ said Irish, who also serves on the board of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior.

’(The seed bank) maintains the stock and encourages the use of well-suited crops to a region for their inherent ability to produce in the conditions you have,’ said Irish, who also serves on the board of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior.

The group also attracts gardeners and health-food consumers with some 300 varieties of plants.




Tags: Food crisis | Native Seeds/SEARCH | seed bank |

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