Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Seeds for mankind

The following is my summary of a good manuscript, "Seeds for Mankind", written and produced by the International Seed Federation (ISF), May 2002.

A. Intro

Modern Plant Breeding
Two-step process: (a) creation of genetic variability, (b) selection of cultivars for specific purposes
Use the laws of heredity (discovered by Mendel, 1856) and statistics (developed by Fisher and Pearson, around 1860)

B. Objectives of Plant Breeding

1. Productivity: about 30-60% of yield increases is due to genetic improvementHardiness/Yield 2. Stability: show more adaptability than low-yielding oldervarieties
3. Diseases and Pest Resistance: by using existing resistance in species, and bygenetic engineering

4. Biodiversity, in particular:
(a) Crop genetic diversity – bet. 6,000 to 7,000 new varieties are protectedannually in the UPOV member states,
(b) Biotape protection – preservation of places where species live

5. Product Quality, in particular:
(a) Technical quality – processibility of the raw material,
(b) Food quality – ability of food to keep sensory characteristics and physical qualities under given conditions

6. Crop Management: for crop protection and minimizing soil tillage
Regional Adaptation: facilitate the introduction of new promising crops toother regions of the world.

C. Production and Marketing of High Quality Seed

Too often, new and better varieties released by plant breeders are notproduced and commercialized to farmers.Seed Production: maintain genetic quality, maintain seed viability and healthSeed Marketing: market research à seed promotion à seed pricing à seeddistribution.

D. Main Actors of the Seed Chain

Basic research: both the public and private sectorsVarietal development: over the long-term, private sector should do thisSeed production, processing and marketing: private sector; govt. to improveinfra, tax incentives, creditQuality control: private seed companies with govt. supervision

E. Short Discussion of the Paper

Content: heavy and completeClarity: reader-friendly even for non-scientists.
Economic sense: very good. To quote its conclusion, “the public sector should refrain from being active in the competitive area… Governments should focus on their roles as regulators and developers of infrastructures.”

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