22 Sep 2008: Analysis
Saving the Seeds of the
Next Green Revolution
With food prices skyrocketing and climate change looming, the world needs a green revolution like the one a generation ago. But many valuable seed varieties have been lost – and scientists now are scrambling to protect those that remain before they vanish down the genetic drain.
Suddenly plant breeding is sexy. In recent months, soaring prices of food, coupled with fears of runaway climate change, have brought calls for a renaissance in agricultural research — to boost crop yields and deliver new varieties that can stand the heat and drought of a greenhouse world.
The world needs a repeat of the advances made during the last green revolution a generation ago, which doubled global food output.
But the truth is that this new revolution is hobbled before it starts. Decades of underinvestment since the last green revolution have left the world’s crops in genetic meltdown. In many cases, the feedstocks for a new push for plant breeding simply aren’t there.
Seed at the CIMMYT Seed Health Laboratory in Mexico is cleaned of dust and chaff, then dried to keep it viable.