Journal Article

Collaboration between private and public genebanks in conserving and using plant genetic resources

Among the most important users of plant genetic resources, conserved predominantly in public genebanks around the world, are public and private plant breeders. Through their breeding efforts, they contribute significantly to global, regional, and local food and nutrition security. Plant breeders need genetic diversity to be able to develop competitive new varieties that are adapted to the changing environmental conditions and suit the needs of consumers. To ensure continued and timely access to the genetic resources that contain the required characteristics and traits, plant breeders established working collections with breeding materials and germplasm for the crops they were breeding. However, with the changing and increasingly more restrictive access conditions, triggered by new global legal instruments like the Convention on Biological Diversity/Nagoya Protocol and the International Treaty, plant breeders started to establish their own genebanks at the turn of the 21st century. This paper analyses the conditions that contributed to this situation as well as the historical ways that plant breeders used to acquire the germplasm they needed. Public genebanks played and continue to play a conducive role in providing genetic resources to users, including private-sector plant breeders. However, also the practices of the germplasm curators to collect and distribute germplasm were affected by the new legal framework that had been developed in global fora. It is against this background that the complementarity and collaboration between public and private sector genebanks have been assessed. Whenever possible, vegetable genetic resources and vegetable private breeding companies have been used to analyze and illustrate such collaboration. The authors look at reported successful examples of collaborative efforts and consider opportunities and approaches under which such collaboration can be established and strengthened to ensure the continued availability of the building blocks for food and nutrition security.