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Twenty Initiatives Saving Seeds for Future Generations

By saving, exchanging, and reusing seeds over thousands of years, farmers and gardeners carefully selected crops for various traits adapted to many growing conditions and climates, creating a rich genetic plant heritage that formed the base of the global food supply.

Over the last century, however, this agricultural biodiversity has undergone a rapid decline, with many heritage and native plant species being replaced with commercial crop varieties. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost due to the rapid expansion of industrial agriculture and monoculture (single crop) farms. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports that 60,000 to 100,000 species of plant are currently threatened with extinction.

Revitalizing the practice of seed saving is vital for the world’s collective food security. Conservation techniques, such as the creation of seed banks and seed exchanges among farmers, gardeners, and even nations, play an important role in not only preserving ancient, heirloom varieties of important food crops, but also in mitigating against the increasing risks of pests, diseases, and climate change.

The laws and regulations regarding seed saving and exchange practices are changing worldwide. Many farmers groups, nonprofit organizations, and governments are working to conserve and enhance seed diversity through seed banks, exchange networks and cooperatives, and educational programs.

Food Tank is highlighting 20 important seed-saving projects across the globe that are helping preserve agricultural biodiversity. Read more