Reinvigorating Public Plant Breeding
Protecting our agricultural genetic diversity and expanding crop diversity is essential to the future viability of family farms and may offer promising long-term solutions to address climate change and global food security. RAFI-USA’s seeds and breeds work exists to protect our agricultural diversity by addressing some of the systemic policy root causes, such as a lack of funding and public support for classical breeding programs. We lead efforts to reinvigorate publicly-held seeds and breeds.
A Century Ago: In 1903, commercial seed houses offered hundreds of varieties, as shown in this sampling of ten crops.
80 Years Later: By 1983, few of those varieties were found in the National Seed Storage Laboratory.*
*Changed its name in 2001 to the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation.
- Disappearing agricultural biodiversity
- Lack of funding for public breeding
- Increasing corporate power/control of the seed industry
- Climate change and the need for regionally adapted seeds
- Lack of public awareness about the issues, root causes, implications, and potential solutions
Our overall goal is to ensure and expand farmer, business, and consumer choices for more diverse and improved public seed variety options that can better respond to rapid climate change and growing new market opportunities. We envision a strong public breeding sector that serves as a viable alternative to GMO driven systems.
- Advocacy for public policies that support, advance, and reinvigorate classical public plant breeding
- Community building, networking, and grassroots education designed to bring together plant breeders, advance, and promote plant breeding & provide opportunities for collaboration and peer-to-peer learning
- On the ground research including developing a breeding program for the Southeast, working to develop an open source concept, and other hands-on activities
- 2014 Summit on Seeds & Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture: Meeting The Challenges of Food Security
- Breeding for Organic Production Systems
Blog Posts & Action Alerts
- Supporting Alternative Sales Options for Direct-to-Market Farmers (3/16/2020)
- New Plant Breeder’s Guide Helps Keep Crop Genetics in the Public Domain (1/29/2020)
- North Carolina Pollinator Toolkit (8/20/2019)
- A True Organizer (2/19/2019)
- Bayer-Monsanto Merger: A Recipe for Food Insecurity, Uprooting Farmers (6/5/2018)
- Open Letter from Farmers to Mr. John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO (7/10/2017)
- A Friend to Farmers in All Seasons (12/21/2016)
- Bringing (Burt’s) Bees to the Farm (10/31/2016)
- RAFI Partners with Burt’s Bees to Plant 1 Billion Seeds and #BringBackTheBees (8/1/2016)
- RAFI & Burt’s Bees #BringBacktheBees: March 8 – June 30 (6/7/2016)
Publications & Resources
- Reinvigorating Seeds & Breeds for a More Organic World (Pre-Conference Proceedings to the 18th IFOAM Organic World Congress, Istanbul, Turkey)
- Proceedings of 2014 Summit on Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century Agriculture
- Organizational Sign-On Letter in Support of Tester’s 2012 Amendment
- AFRI Classical Breeding Analysis & Recommendations (2011)
- Conventional/Classical Plant and Animal Breeding Provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill (2008)
- Summit Proceedings: Summit on Seeds & Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture (2003)
- The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources (2008). This FAO report provides a comprehensive overview of recent trends in PGRFA conservation and use around the world. It is based on information gathered from more than 100 countries as well as from regional and international research and support organizations and academic programs. The report documents the current status of plant genetic resources diversity, conservation and use, as well as the extent and role of national, regional, and international efforts that underpin the contributions of PGRFA to food security. It highlights the most significant changes that have occurred in the sector since 1996, when the first report on The State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was produced by FAO, as well as the gaps and needs that remain for setting future priorities.
- “Plant genetic resources, use them or lose them“, Fact Sheet produced by FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture