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Dr. Henry Shands
Director Emeritus, National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation,
USDA-ARS (retired)
Fort Collins, CO, USA
Conservation of Genetic Resources
Monday, September 13, 2010
3:30 - 4:00 pm

Abstract:  Plant genetic resources serve many roles in our society. They provide our food as well as feed for our animals. They are also used for fuel, fibers and flowers. They serve as research materials for plant scientists such as plant breeders, plant molecular biologists, and plant physiologists. They support agricultural industry from farmers to traders to processors to distributors to retailers to seedsmen and so on. And, plant genetic resources represent a special heritage coming from the time of the early gatherers to the present farmers and represent perhaps the most valuable intergenerational transfer that we have.

Ex-situ conservation of plant genetic resources is most frequently represented by seeds, propagules and DNA. Over 1700 gene banks and over 2500 botanic gardens store seeds of plants worldwide. While there is considerable duplication of agricultural seeds, plant collectors continue to add new seeds of plant species and genera, including crop wild relatives. International Agricultural Research Centers of the CGIAR maintain and have collected many accessions of their mandated crops and their wild relatives. Recent funding from the World Bank to upgrade the quality of the CGIAR genebanks, and establish more functional and linked databases makes those collections even more valuable.

Seed security for future generations has been aided by the establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2008. The vault is operated by Norway with financial assistance from the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Donor countries, international centers and other organizations may deposit seed samples at no cost and retain full ownership rights. Currently over 526,000 seed samples have been deposited.
Global food security is truly dependent on the access to and use of these and other plant genetic resources by plant breeders and biotechnologists in the coming years as the global population reaches a projected 9 billion people.
Henry L. Shands was Director for the USDA-ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado from 2000 until his retirement in 2007. Prior to that, he served as the Agricultural Research Service’s Assistant Administrator for Genetic Resources in Washington, D.C. from 1997 to 2000 after serving for 12 years on the ARS National Program Staff as Genetic Resources Program Leader and Associate Deputy Administrator for Genetic Resources. Shands served as the ARS representative to the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, to the negotiations for the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity and to the FAO negotiations for the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources. He served for a year each as Director of the ARS International Programs Office and as an Advisor to the Rural Development Department at the World Bank. He currently serves as an advisor to the World Bank’s Genebank Upgrading Program for the CGIAR’s International Agricultural Research Centers and as an advisor to the Global Crop Diversity Trust for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. He recently served as President of the Crop Science Society of America is currently Past President of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST).

Click to view Henry Shands' ABIC 2010 presentation