Harnessing Genetic Diversity to Advance Food Security
Addressing the challenge of providing sufficient safe and nutritious food to the world’s growing population, while conserving the environment and helping farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change, will require unprecedented increases in agricultural production and productivity over the next 40 years.
Applications of innovative biotechnologies and genomic tools have potential to improve food production by increasing yields on existing farmland and improving the survival and resilience of crops and livestock. For instance, the use of advanced molecular tools to mine the genetic diversity of plants and animals of agriculture importance and their wild relatives has and continues to uncover alleles (different versions of the same gene) which increase resistance to diseases and improve resilience to drought and heat in crops and livestock. Once alleles for desirable traits have been identified, breeding programs can select for these traits to breed improved plants and animals.
At the upcoming Plant and Animal Genome XXII Conference in San Diego, California, Lindsay Parish from the Office of Agriculture Research and Policy at USAID will chair a symposium entitled “Harnessing Genetic Diversity to Advance Food Security” on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, from 1:30 – 3:40 PM. This symposium will focus on the current approaches to utilize genetic diversity found in plants and livestock populations to address challenges in food security. Presentations will highlight the latest developments in genomics, advanced molecular tools, and molecular breeding in the context of international development efforts. Speakers include Dr. Douglas Cook from the University of California at Davis, Dr. Andrew Patterson from the University of Georgia, Dr. Richard Ward with CIMMYT, Dr. Susan Lamont from Iowa State University, and Harvey Blackburn with the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, USDA.
Members of the Agrilinks and the Feed the Future communities who will be present this year at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference are invited to attend the USAID symposium and participate in the discussion of the applications of genetic diversity in food security.