Making seeds which withstand climate change more difficult

Experts have warned that breeding crops and seeds which are more resilient to climate change has become harder after talks aimed at securing an International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture broke down last month.

More than 500 industry and country representatives had met in Rome to resolve six years of negotiations designed to ratify the Treaty accord, which was drafted in 2004. The aim was to increase the number of crop species which are commercially significant through a multilateral system allowing signatories to share seeds under government control and in the public domain.

The number of seeds that signatories agreed to exchange has been limited to just 64 food and forage crops, with most vegetables omitted. To date the only company to have commercialised varieties from the seed exchange, and to contribute to the sharing find, has been Nunhems Netherlands.

Experts say part of the systems failure has been an overestimation of the value of the material contributed to the scheme and an underestimation of how willing countries would be to add seeds to the system, resulting in a glut of material which is of limited genetic value to breeders and researchers.

Photo caption: Very few vegetable seeds have been included in the treaty to date

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