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Safe of Plant Genes

A gene bank in Colombia aims to preserve the genetic diversity of beans and cassava, which could then be called upon to help develop crop varieties that can withstand climate change and other pressures, the Financial Times reports.

This new $17.2 million gene bank in Colombia, it adds, is part of a network of gene banks overseen by CGIAR, a global research initiative aimed at enabling a food-secure future. While the Colombian gene bank focuses on collecting and preserving beans, cassava, and plants eaten by livestock, other gene banks across the world concentrate on other plants like rice at the Filipino site and potatoes at the Peruvian site, the Financial Times adds, noting that seed duplicates are all saved at the Svalbard, Norway bank.

Saving diverse plant samples could help guard against the failure of monocultures now typically used in farming, the Financial Times writes. For instance, it notes that a wild bean found in Costa Rica in 1987 at a site that was later developed turned out to be resistant to white mold, a fungus that otherwise ravaged beans. Researchers then relied on this saved variety to develop a new, resistant variety that farmers now use, it adds.