Humans in the course of history have used more than 3,000 species of plants. But today’s global population depends largely upon 150 species. And three crops – rice, wheat and maize – provide more than half the population’s calories.

“The less we use, the more we lose,” said Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director-general for climate and natural resources at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “To address the world’s complex challenges we must change this situation and we can do so by strengthening the role of the treaty.”

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has created the largest global gene pool. It has been accessed 5.4 million times by farmers, scientists and plant breeders.

“We must move beyond staple food crops and increase investments in the conservation, availability and use of plant-genetic resources of fruit, vegetables and underutilized crops,” Semedo said. “We must improve access to scientific information and facilitate the transfer of technologies and expertise, particularly in developing countries.”

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