Biodiversity is our business - how plant breeders protect and promote biodiversity
Plant breeding is all about generating biodiversity. All plant breeding starts with the breeder bringing together desirable characters in new combinations in diverse plant populations and selecting from these the varieties that are best suited to our needs for food, feed, fuel and fibre. Sometimes plant breeders look in the wild or in gene banks for plants with attributes that they want to bring into their varieties, perhaps for pest and disease resistance, nutritional content or flavour. When they do this, in order to protect and promote biodiversity, breeders share benefits.
How do plant breeders share benefits?
Benefit-sharing can take many forms, it can be mandatory or voluntary, it can be in the form of money or through activities that benefit stakeholders. Benefit-sharing is not new; plant breeders have been sharing benefits for many years as part of their day to day business. This work makes a real difference in practice but is often unacknowledged in the global discussion about genetic resources and benefit-sharing.
So, what is the difference between voluntary benefit-sharing and mandatory benefit sharing?
Mandatory benefit-sharing often means that the plant breeder must commit to pay a sum of money in exchange for the right to breed with genetic resources to develop and commercialize new crop varieties. Voluntary benefit-sharing can mean plant breeders providing financial support to national genebanks, conservation programs or other projects but can also include in kind activities, such as:
- Sharing know-how to empower smallholder farmers and build capacity in plant breeding and seed production;
- Helping genebanks by multiplying their genetic resources that will then be shared with anyone and by providing advice;
- Depositing seed of their new varieties in gene banks so that these new genetic resources are available to all;
- Taking part in collaborative research projects and pre-breeding programmes aimed at exploring and using the biodiversity in plant genetic resources to find new sources of important crop characteristics like yield, disease resistance and quality to use in developing improved varieties;
- Sharing expertise in policy decisions with national and international advisory committees;
- Raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity and conservation of genetic resources locally, nationally and globally;
- Sharing the latest improved varieties through the breeders exemption, a principle that makes innovative new commercial varieties available to anyone to use in plant breeding thereby ensuring the availability of these genetic resources for the benefit of food security.
Why do voluntary benefit-sharing activities matter?
Because they are:
… an opportunity to give back to nature
… a direct way to support conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources.
… a means to help communities to access, conserve and use sustainably genetic resources while also improving their livelihoods.
…and above all, an investment in the future of worldwide food security.
In order to find out more about the types of voluntary benefit-sharing activities the seed sector is engaged in and to view the specific projects, please select a type of activity here below.
Download the brochure 'Volutary benefit-sharing activities of the seed industry'.