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Genetic resources just a click away for agriculture

Gene banks also safeguard genetic resources and biodiversity that help provide farmers with access to new, more productive varieties of crops and animals.

USDA' Agricultural Research Service (ARS), partnering with Bioversity Internationaland the Global Crop Diversity Trust, has launched the Germplasm Resources Information Network-Global (GRIN-Global), a powerful but easy-to-use, Internet-based information management system for the world's plant genebanks. Genebanks support agricultural productivity and global food security goals by ensuring access to plant genetic resources in the face of daunting challenges such as crop diseases and pests, an expanding human population, environmental deterioration, and changing climates. Gene banks also safeguard genetic resources and biodiversity that help provide farmers with access to new, more productive varieties of crops and animals.

USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Dr. Catherine Woteki announced the launch of GRIN-Global today at a White House event on Innovation for Global Development. "Innovation in agriculture is central to global development and this Administration has recognized and remains committed to the important role of science and technological innovation in confronting the challenges of the 21st century," Woteki said. "For agricultural genebanks, researchers and producers worldwide, GRIN-Global provides a powerful information tool to safeguard and utilize invaluable crop diversity. It also expands and streamlines access to USDA's Germplasm Resources Information Network, a database of more than 540,000 different samples of plants available from the National Plant Germplasm System."

Supported by a grant from the Global Crop Diversity Trust, USDA/ARS's technical prowess in genebank information management systems, and Bioversity's expertise and strong links with genebanks worldwide, GRIN-Global was released to information management specialists in December 2011. Today, information in the genebank is being used in some of the "green revolution" centers established by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and in national genebank systems in the developing world.

"Crop diversity underpins all agriculture, everywhere," said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which provided $1.4 million in support of this three-year project. "Plant breeders turn to genebanks for this diversity, whether they are searching for pest resistance or drought tolerance or any other characteristic. How the seeds and the associated information are managed is therefore of huge importance to that breeding effort. USDA's genebank management software is the best in the world, and GRIN-Global now makes this technology available for free to genebanks everywhere. This is real innovation for development."

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief intramural scientific research agency. The Global Crop Diversity Trust is an independent international organization whose mission is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide.

Bioversity International is the world's largest international research organization dedicated solely to the conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity.

For additional information on GRIN-Global, please visit http://www.grin-global.org/index.php/Main_Page.

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