ROME, ITALY — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said it has placed the genome sequences of more than 3,000 rice varieties with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as part of an international effort to set up a global data exchange system for crop genetic resources.
The Philippines-based rice institute, considered the world leader in its field, announced its initiative at the sixth session of the governing body of the treaty that encompasses 136 member nations and is part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The IRRI initiative is part of an international effort to store plant genetic material in seed banks in order to help cope with a burgeoning global population as well as climate change that may increase the incidence of drought, floods and pests. Plant scientists will be seeking to develop crop varieties that are more productive, less damaging to the environment and with good capabilities to withstand ecosystem shocks in an uncertain future.
“The genetic information that IRRI is making available to us, and the public at large, is a hugely generous and significant show of support to our endeavors to make all relevant information on genetic resources on plant crops available for future food security,” said Shakeel Bhatti, secretary of the international treaty organization. “To have so much information on rice, which after all is the basic food for half the world’s population … is a major step in securing food security for future generations.”
The meeting in Rome is expected to focus on the creation of a single global information system on plant genetics that would allow scientists to access genetic material and seed samples from existing gene banks through a system developed and overseen by the FAO.
“We can’t expect every program, every gene bank in the world to re-design their databases to match some international standard,” said Robert Ziegler, director general of IRRI “What we need is inter-operability, to create portals where everyone’s databases can talk to another. This is what the global information system on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture will be.”