Threats to Crop Diversity

We may be losing species, but we are losing diversity among species even faster. This loss of diversity will impact a plant's ability to adapt to changing conditions, so accelerating the loss. Genetically modified crops may also negatively impact genetic diversity.

Genetic diversity: a threatened resource

Our developing understanding of the importance of crop genetic diversity comes at a time when the threats to these resources have probably never been greater.
Taxonomists have still only described a fraction of the world’s plant species and threats have been assessed for only a small proportion of those described. Yet we have enough information to know that many plants are at risk.

What compounds this risk is the loss of genetic diversity within species and gene pool shrinkage is largely taking place unrecognised or assessed.

The loss of genetic diversity means that plants will not be able to adapt to changing conditions quite so readily, and that the plant breeder will have fewer options when a new pest or disease attacks the crop.

Although genetic erosion cannot be quantified accurately, it seems likely that virtually all plant species are currently suffering loss of genetic variation to varying degrees.

It has in fact been estimated that 25-35% of plant genetic diversity was lost between 1988 and the year 2000.

Most threatened species occur in the tropics: Central and South America, Africa south of the Sahara and tropical South and Southeast Asia.

25-35% of plant genetic diversity was lost between 1988 & 2000

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