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The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is an association of agricultural research centres which together represent an important force in genetic conservation of crops and their wild relatives. Under the CGIAR umbrella, the centres are collectively custodians of international genetic resource collections for crops that provide 75 per cent of the world's food energy. This volume considers the status of the key collections, in each case providing details of the botany, distribution and agronomy of the species concerned, in addition to extensive information on germplasm conservation and use. The book presents a unique synthesis of knowledge drawn from the CGIAR centres, providing an invaluable source of reference for all those concerned with monitoring, maintaining and utilizing the biodiversity of our staple crop species.
The Earth's natural resources are finite and vulnerable. Realization of this fact underlay the drafting of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. The signature of the Convention by countries, both developed and developing, formalized their pledge to stem the rapid loss of biodiversity and sustain this vital resource for present and future generations.
Arguably, the most important component of biodiversity is the genetic diversity of plant species involved in food and agriculture - crops and forage species for livestock feed. This diversity created in farmers' fields over the millennia and by scientific research institutions over the last century is complemented by diversity present in wild relatives of the crop and forage species. Together, these genetic resources provide the raw material for further selection and improvement to meet the food security needs of the world's rapidly rising population.
Although technological advances in plant breeding and agricultural methods have led to dramatic increases in the amount and quality of food available today, it is estimated that more than 800 million people throughout the world do not have enough food to meet basic nutritional needs. The majority live in regions of the developing world where environmental and economic constraints impede their benefiting from technological advances.
To achieve global food security will require efforts on many fronts. The 16 Centres of the CGIAR share a mission to make their contribution through research on sustainable agriculture in developing countries.
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