Save Our Seeds
Our present-day crops for food and agriculture have once been developed from wild plant species through adaptation by humans, a process that is known as domestication. This process resulted in crops in which only a subset of the wild genetic diversity was represented, a concept that is referred to as the domestication bottleneck. More recently, the modernization of agriculture further reduced the genetic diversity within our crops. This reduction forms a serious threat to the availability of genetic diversity in plant traits that are necessary for further crop improvement. The notion that this genetic erosion eventually may threaten our food security lies at the basis of the establishment of gene banks. Despite their efforts to conserve the genetic diversity contained within landraces and old cultivars, the necessary variation for crop improvement often can no longer be found in cultivated materials. Therefore, plant breeders nowadays often resort to wild relatives that are inter-fertile with the crop species in order to find and use the traits of interest. However, access to this genetic diversity is hampered by the fact that wild relatives are severely underrepresented in gene bank collections, while many species are at risk in nature due to various human influences, including habitat destruction and climate change. To ensure availability of our seeds for crop improvement sound protection measures are needed for wild species in nature, backed up by the conservation of genetic resources in gene banks.