ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
"Doomsday" rice now secure
IRRI staff in the Philippines bid farewell the last shipment of rice samples to the "Doomsday Vault" to helpprotect the genetic diversity of rice.
The black boxes containing the rice seeds traveled to the mountains of theNorwegian archipelago of Svalbard, about 1,200 kilometers from the North Pole. Deep inside Svalbard's icy mountains, the vault houses all of theworld's important crop seeds that may be humanity's ultimate insurance in food security in the event of a major regional or global crisis.
The rice collection that left IRRI is the Institute's second deposit to the vault. The first deposit of 70,180 rice samples was made during the inauguration of the vault in February 2008 - the largest shipment for the vault's opening.
"After this second deposit, IRRI now has the largest number of samples of a single crop and its wild relatives, coming from the largest number of countries, stored in Svalbard," said *Dr. Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton,head of IRRI's International Rice Genebank (IRG). If ideal conditions of temperature and storage are followed inside the vault, seeds can be stored for hundreds of years.
The samples sent to Norway are duplicates of rice conserved at IRRI's IRG inLos Ba?os, in the Philippines, that houses the largest collection of ricegenetic diversity in the world. About 110,000 different types of rice arekept in long-term storage, the "base" collection, and in medium-term storagefor distribution, the "active" collection.
"IRRI shares seed from the IRG for free with farmers, farmers' groups, governments, universities, and others under conditions set by the *International Treaty on Plant Genetics Resources for Food and Agriculture Dr. Sackville Hamilton explained. "126 countries signed this treaty that ensures the fair sharing of benefits from the use of these resources."
IRRI, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, built the IRG in 1965. Its comprehensive rice collection includes samples of wild rice, ancestors of rice, traditional and heirloom varieties, and modern varieties. The foresight that drove its establishment is best demonstrated through IRRI's work with national research institutions in characterizing traits that benefit rice breeding and developing improved rice varieties that address current and future challenges rice farmers face in their fields.
IRRI also works with governments in replenishing lost rice varieties. "IRRI's collection of Cambodia's native varieties proved critical after the Khmer Rouge strife that caused local rice varieties to vanish," recalled Ms. Flora de Guzman, IRRI's research manager at the IRG. "IRRI had duplicates of these varieties and so, between 1981 and 1989, IRRI and Cambodia completed the process of replenishing the country's lost rice."
Any contributing party can store seeds in the vault for free.
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