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Effort Underway To Save Endangered Seeds

Farmers and plant breeders around the globe are planting thousands of endangered seeds as part of a bid to save 100,000 varieties of food crops from extinction.

In many cases, only a handful of seeds remain from rare varieties of barley, rice and wheat whose history can be traced back to the Neolithic era, said Carey Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

The effort, which Fowler thinks is the biggest biological rescue effort ever undertaken, is aimed at rescuing seeds stored under less-than-optimal conditions in underfunded seed banks as well as those threatened by disasters.

The rescuers hope to preserve seed samples that might provide genetic traits needed to fight disease or address climate change.

So far, the trust has agreements in place with 49 gene banks in 46 countries, covering some 53,000 of 100,000 varieties that researchers believe are endangered, including rare varieties of bananas and plantains, potatoes, chickpeas, corn, coconuts, breadfruit, cowpeas and yams.

Once cultivated, the harvested seeds will be divided into three lots. One will remain in their native gene bank. Another will be sent to a gene bank meeting international standards for gene preservation.

And the third, which Fowler terms “the insurance policy,” will be placed in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, a US$10 million facility in a cavern near the North Pole designed to keep the seeds frozen for 200 years even if mechanical refrigeration units fail.

Such seed, Fowler said, “is the raw material that plant breeders use to help agriculture crops adapt to climate change, to drought or the next pest or disease, or simply be more productive in terms of yield.”

Dumping Duty Proposal Rumoured On U. S. Biodiesel

The European Commission plans to propose antidumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of biodiesel from the United States, sources familiar with the proposal said on Thursday.

The anti-dumping duties would range from two euros (US$2.50) to 19 euros per 100 kg and the anti-subsidy duties from 23 to 26 euros per 100 kg, the sources told Reuters.

The commission, which oversees trade policy for the 27-country European Union, is due to propose the measures at a meeting next month of EU national trade officials, known as the anti-dumping committee.

In April last year, EU biodiesel producers complained that they were being hammered by U. S. subsidies that they said distorted the growing international trade in plant-based fuels.

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