News of the WeekPLANT BREEDING

Scientists Seek Easier Access to Seed Banks

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Science  12 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5933, pp. 1376
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1376

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Free and timely access to seeds is enshrined in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which came into force in 2004. But "free and timely" is not how plant breeders describe their experience with five of the treaty's 120 signatories: China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, and Turkey. That's alarming because many seed collections are vulnerable. Last week, the treaty's governing body met in Tunis to review implementation and coax reluctant nations to open their seed banks and contribute to a "doomsday vault" on Norway's Svalbard island.