KV Raman and KN Watanabe

Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) is broadly defined to include resources which contribute to people's livelihoods by providing food, medicine, feed for domestic animals, fiber, clothing, shelter and energy, etc.1 The use of plant genetic resources to enhance crop productivity and sustainability is considered a high priority subject today. In this article we discuss:

1. The contribution and value of PGRFA in modern varieties, including its role in integrated pest management (IPM);

2. The state of utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, including genetic vulnerability and erosion; and

3. Genetic improvement of crops, including the current and future use of biotechnology applications.

Partnerships between the public and private sector are recommended in order to further promote the use of PGRFA. The strengths of US scientists could be harnessed for PGRFA application through active networking and partnerships. An example of such efforts is demonstrated in the newly developed project, The Cornell-Eastern Europe-Mexico (CEEM) International Collaborative Project in Potato Late Blight Control. This project aims to exploit the full potential of potato genetic resources to develop cultivars with durable resistance to the disease-causing fungus responsible for the Irish potato famine. Through such partnerships, comparative advantages are fully exploited. The lessons learned from these programs as they mature will set the stage for further development of successful global programs to address critical PGRFA associated problems.

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