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Conference highlights urgent need to harness genetic resources for future food security

November 1, 2016
Climate change is likely to have a huge impact on cereal farmers in India. CIMMYT/Emma Quilligan

Climate change is likely to have a huge impact on cereal farmers in India. CIMMYT/Emma Quilligan

NEW DELHI (CIMMYT) — The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) will participate in the first International Agrobiodiversity Congress (IAC) from November 6 to 9, 2016 in New Delhi. The IAC aims to provide a common platform for stakeholders, including farmers, scientists, policymakers and industry leaders to share their experiences and knowledge in agrobiodiversity management and genetic resource conservation. The Congress is being hosted by the Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resources and Bioversity International, and co-organized by CIMMYT and the Borlaug Institute for South Asia.

“Multiple challenges in future wheat production – including heat stress, changes in rainfall and a growing threat of increased virulent diseases – will increase the demand for new varieties that can cope with stress and changing environment,” said Arun Joshi, CIMMYT’s regional representative in Asia. “This congress will focus on advances that can be made through increased diversity and targeted use of genetic resources to produce improved varieties.”

Martin Kropff, director general of CIMMYT, will give a keynote address on why effective partnerships and agrobiodiversity are needed to feed nine billion people. He will also chair a plenary session on “Agrobiodiversity for Sustainable Development Goals.” Other key themes for plenaries include agrobiodiversity for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, intellectual property rights, access and benefit sharing, farmers’ rights, quarantine, biosafety and biosecurity and science-led innovation for agrobiodiversity management and sustainable use.

CIMMYT is also organizing a satellite session titled “Harnessing Biodiversity for Food Security and Sustainable Development.” This session will bring together numerous partners of the SeeD initiative, which seeks to unlock the genetic potential of maize and wheat genetic resources by providing breeders with a toolkit to improve targeted use in the development of high-yielding, climate-ready and resource-efficient cultivars. The session will also cover the importance of enhancing the use of genetic resources for improved agriculture, and how doing so can help meet several of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. SeeD is a pioneering partner in the Diversity Seek initiative, which seeks synergies among projects to harness the diversity of crop species to feed humankind.

In addition to Kropff, CIMMYT speakers at the conference include Ravi Singh, distinguished scientist and head of bread wheat improvement and Kevin Pixley, director of CIMMYT’s genetic resources program. Other researchers working to improve the genetic potential of maize and wheat will also participate. CIMMYT will also host an evening reception on Nov. 7 to mark CIMMYT’s achievements over the last 50 years.

Check out the IAC program here and list of keynote speakers here.