Safeguarding The Seeds of Food Security

Safeguarding The Seeds of Food Security

“The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System”

National Coalition for Food and Agricultural ResearchThe critical role of the USDA’s plant germplasm system in food security is the subject of National C-FAR’s eighth Research Hill Seminar in 2012 on Monday, June 25 at 10 AM in 337 Russell Senate Office Building and again at a ‘Lunch~N~Learn’ at noon in 1300 Longworth House Office Building. The featured speaker is Dr. Peter Bretting, Senior National Program Leader for Plant Germplasm and Genomes, USDA/ARS-Office of National Programs.

“The world’s crops constitute the thin green line that stands between humanity and starvation,” says Bretting. “USDA’s National Plant Germplasm System safeguards the plant genetic diversity that is critical to meeting multiple challenges that could threaten our food security.”

“This presentation provides an excellent example of the value of federally funded food and agricultural research in producing the scientific outcomes and outreach needed to meet 21st century challenges and opportunities,” says Chuck Conner, President of the National Coalition for Food & Agricultural Research (National C-FAR).

Genetic diversity enables crops to maintain productivity through time, and to adapt to the challenges of emerging and evolving diseases and pests, environmental deterioration, expanding human populations, scarce and expensive inputs, and rapidly changing agricultural conditions.

But irreplaceable crop diversity is threatened by extinction in nature, in traditional farmers’ fields, and even in developed nations. The diversity must be collected and safeguarded in genebanks in the form of seeds, bulbs, tubers, etc., which are collectively termed “plant germplasm” or “plant genetic resources” (PGR). Genebanks support global food security by ensuring global access to these plant genetic resources in the face of those daunting challenges.

Researchers and plant breeders turn to genebanks for sources of resistance to diseases and pests, tolerance to environmental extremes, materials for key experiments, or for new valuable products. The USDA’s National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) of 20 genebanks, some now more than 100 years old, comprises one of the largest and most diverse genebank systems in the world, safeguarding more than ½ million living samples from more than 14,000 different plant species.

The U. S.’s vibrant crop genebanks are more relevant today than ever before, playing key roles in national and global agricultural progress. Scientific interest in these genetic materials has increased tangibly during the last five years, with the NPGS distributing more than 1 million plant samples to researchers and breeders world-wide. These materials are keys for continued progress in crop genetics and breeding which underpins current and future food security.

Seminar presentations are available at The seminar is open to the public and the media.