Today, Bioversity International is proud to celebrate 40 years of agricultural biodiversity research by sharing a video message from Professor M.S. Swaminathan, the visionary who first conceived of and laid the groundwork for Bioversity International.
Watch the video above or read the full transcript here:
On the Occasion of Bioversity International 40th Anniversary
I am M. S. Swaminathan, an agricultural scientist, speaking from New Delhi, India, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Bioversity International. As I was one of those who was actually associated with the birth of what was then called the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources in 1974, I’m extremely happy about the manner in which, during the last 40 years, this unique organization has grown so well and is making a remarkable contribution.
Biodiversity today occupies an important place in research and in action. It’s clear from the fact that it is a global biodiversity convention, and Bioversity International has shown that biodiversity is the feedstock for sustainable food and livelihood security on our planet and the major feedstock for plant breeding. Without diversity, I can’t breed new varieties!
So Bioversity International’s contribution in terms of identifying and conserving genes of importance to sustainable food security is monumental. Because, I think, the first thing is awareness. Unless people are aware that biodiversity is important, attempts to conserve them are null – this has stimulated smaller organizations all over the developing world. We have our own National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, which is modelled in some way on Bioversity, with the same kind of mandate, pattern and so on.
I think that Bioversity International’s work, which stimulated the global biodiversity Convention at Rio de Janeiro in 1992, is even somewhat larger. But, the fact remains that, because most of the agrobiodiversity is ex situ conservation, in situ, on farm conservation is being increasingly emphasized by Bioversity International.
So I think the role of Bioversity International is a catalyst, a catalyst for conservation, and it has brought together a coalition of those concerned with the conservation of genetic resources. We can’t ignore any species or gene from the point of view of conservation.
The local level genebank and seedbanks which are now developing, they have become a veritable source of valuable genes for assistance against pests and diseases, drought and floods, and so on. We look at agrobiodiversity for facing major challenges. One is the extensive prevalence of malnutrition. There is also the problem of ‘hidden hunger’.
The other aspect is climate change, changes in temperature, changes in precipitation, changes in sea level… All these require new genetic material. This is why the next 40 years of Bioversity International are going to be even more challenging. And I am sure that Bioversity International will be the flagship of the human quest for the conservation of genetic resources.
Professor M. S. Swaminathan
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