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In_Focus: SEEDS THAT GIVE Participatory Plant Breeding
by Ronnie Vernooy
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Today’s agriculture is like a huge inverted pyramid; globally, it rests on a precariously narrow base. Less than 3% of the 250 000 plant varieties available to agriculture are in use today. The top-down system of agricultural research, where farmers are seen merely as recipients of research rather than as participants in it, has contributed to this dependence on a relatively few plant varieties. This trend and the increasing industrialization of agriculture are key factors in what can only be called "genetic erosion".
A new approach to agricultural research and development is needed to conserve diversity, improve crops, and produce quality food for all. This publication examines one such approach: participatory plant breeding. Drawing from a decade of IDRC research support in agricultural biodiversity, this book examines the key issues, from the design of on-farm research to farmers’ and plant breeders’ rights. It argues for the development of new, supportive policies and legislation. It presents a series of project stories that illustrate how farmers and plant breeders are working together in remote regions from the Andes to the Himalayas and beyond. In analyzing the results -- both the successes and the shortcomings -- the author presents a series of specific recommendations for governments and organizations involved in agricultural research and development. Finally, the author takes a speculative look 10 years into the future of participatory plant breeding.
This book serves as the focal point for an IDRC thematic web site on participatory plant breeding: www.idrc.ca/seeds. The full text is available online and leads the reader into a virtual web of resources that explores a decade of research on agrobiodiversity and participatory plant breeding.
About the Author
Ronnie Vernooy is a Senior Program Specialist in Environment and Natural Resources at the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada.
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