Global Challenges for Realizing Equitable Sustainable Harvests

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The realization of an agricultural harvest which is both:

1. Sustainable in terms of protection of the environment and renewability of resources; and

2. Equitable in terms of costs and benefits to producers and consumers, is a global challenge.

The urgency of this challenge is evident in the increasing burden of a burgeoning population to feed, a deteriorating resource base to protect and standards of living to be improved. Solutions to these problems lie with the extant agricultural systems which dominate the human food supply. The two systems, at once overlapping, disparate, conflicting and complementary, have in recent decades been characterized by an almost parasitic, one way relationship in genetic resources management, with gene flow going from landraces and wild relatives of crops in marginal zones to the formal, centralized breeding programs (Fig.

11.1). To harness what both systems can offer, modern agricultural researchers must be urged to emphasize the complementarity of the two systems over their disparateness. This requires the integration of the two systems in a single, forward looking one which aims above all at equity and sustainability (Fig.

The three ovals in Figure 11.1 represent the three sources of genetic variation in a crop genepool. The three boxes on the right denote the institutionalized processes that use, maintain or transform genetic resources in the formal germplasm management system. Enclosed by the thin line in the upper left of the figure are the components of the traditional plant genetic resources manage ment system: wild relatives of crop plant and traditional cultivars (landraces) which are maintained in marginal areas. The arrows in Figure 11.1 illustrate the unidirectional geneflow from traditional agricultural systems to the formal, institutional-based system, culminating in the introduction into favorable agricultural areas of improved modern cultivars. In Figure 11.2, this geneflow has been altered by a proposed direct feedback in the middle of the cycle to link agricultural research and germplasm improvement directly to the traditional farming systems in marginal areas to improve the productivity of farmers' production systems, thus ensuring the continuity of this important source of new variation in genetic diversity.

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