20 May 2021

‘Working together on biodiversity’

Breeders are constantly working to develop new and improved vegetable varieties, whether with resistances against pests and diseases, a higher yield, a longer shelf life or a more appealing colour, shape or size. In order to breed these traits into the varieties, they use genetic material from gene banks. Biodiversity – and in particular genetic material – forms the basis for plant breeding. Access to those genetic resources for breeding purposes is governed in Access & Benefit Sharing conventions. Karin Laugs explains more.

Preserving genetic diversity

Mother Nature offers huge plant diversity, but climate change and other conditions have an effect on which types grow naturally in the wild. “It’s important to preserve as much genetic diversity as possible, such as by storing material in gene banks. There may well be a plant somewhere in the wild that has a natural resistance against a common plant disease,” states Karin.

Storage in gene banks

Seeds and other plant-based materials are kept in gene banks around the world. Those gene banks store, propagate and share the material for use. As a vegetable breeding company, we work together with various gene banks worldwide in order to contribute to the preservation of genetic diversity. The ways we collaborate range from financing gathering missions that enable the gene banks to expand their collections and safeguard genetic sources for the future, to helping gene banks to record, screen and propagate genetic material.

Access & Benefit sharing

Agreements have been laid down in various conventions in order to ensure fair and equitable access to – and use of – genetic diversity. Karin explains: “The Nagoya Protocol governs access to genetic material and how the resulting benefits are shared. This protocol ensures that genetic material can only be accessed after asking the permission of the country where the material was found, and that the country receives a share of the benefits resulting from its use."

New varieties

“If access and benefit sharing is well organised by the user, for example a vegetable breeding company such as Rijk Zwaan, organisations can utilise the genetic material for research and breeding purposes to develop new varieties, which in turn can form the basis for further breeding activities,” concludes Karin.

It is thanks to the rich genetic diversity that we are able to keep developing innovative vegetable varieties and contributing to food security.

CSR at Rijk Zwaan

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a natural part of Rijk Zwaan; you could say it is in our genes. We firmly believe that our specific knowledge and techniques relating to vegetable seeds enable us to contribute to a healthy future. By targeting our breeding activities to develop more robust and resilient varieties with better resistances, higher yields and a longer shelf life, we support the more sustainable and efficient production and processing of vegetables. To improve the accessibility and availability of fresh nutritious vegetables for people all over the world, we collaborate with countless partners in the food chain. In our everyday work, we contribute to a better world through the things we do and the way we treat people. This is how we give meaning to our mission of ‘Sharing a healthy future’. Read more about our CSR initiatives.