Global seed data pool gains data of thousands of rice genomes

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Global seed data pool gains data of thousands of rice genomes
The International Rice Research Institute (Irri) has filed the genomic sequences of more than 3,000 rice varieties in a move that boosts plans to set up a global data exchange system for crop genetic resources.

Philippines-based Irri stored the sequences with the FAO-based 136-member International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

As world governments store genetic material in seed banks, Irri has levelled that without one single gateway to genetic resource data, it becomes difficult for researchers and plant breeders to know what is held where, and what genetic resources are contained in the seeds.

The genetic information that IRRI is making available to us, and the public at large, is a hugely generous and significant show of support to our endeavours to make all relevant information on genetic resources on plant crops available for future food security​,” said Shakeel Bhatti, secretary of the ITPGRFA.

"To have so much information on rice, which after all is the basic food for half the world's population, placed at the fingertips of everyone is a major step in securing food security for future generations​.”

Genome sequences are akin to an inbuilt instruction manual that tells living organisms how to grow and react to the environment. Each rice plant has about 400m "letters" in its genome sequence.

Irri advocates that a burgeoning global population, alongside climate change, has prompted the need to develop crop varieties that are both more productive, less environmentally damaging and also shock tolerant is crucial.

"We can't expect every programme, every gene bank in the world to re-design their databases to match some international standard​,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of Irri. 

But what we need is inter-operability, to create portals where everyone's databases can talk to another. This is what the Global Information System on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture will be​.”

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