Throughout the world, since the birth of agriculture, farmers, plant breeders, foresters and gardeners have used the genetic variation in plants to develop new types and varieties of crops and other useful plant species. They have developed an immense range of different plant genotypes adapted to widely varied environments. Since 1945, world crop yields have increased between 200% to 400%, depending on the crop.
Today, more than ever before, the safe conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources are the keys to ensuring food security and, by extension, poverty alleviation and the promotion of peaceful development. The prevention of genetic erosion and thus loss of diversity of these resources is essential to future food security. This is the challenge facing agricultural systems today.
To meet the challenge, both national governments and international bodies must collaborate in increasing productivity on all available agricultural land while employing environmental safeguards to protect natural resources for the future. Of these natural resources (i.e., soil, water, plant genetic resources), genetic resources offer us the greatest benefits in terms of return on scientific, technological and economic inputs and therefore require the most focused attention of researchers.
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