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Keywords:

  • genebanks;
  • crop genetic resources;
  • seed companies;
  • International agricultural research

The number of crop genebanks, designed to conserve crop genetic resources and make them available to breeders, has risen dramatically in recent years. While few dispute the need to conserve crop germplasm to help boost and sustain agricultural productivity, the role of genebanks and their global distribution has become embroiled in controversy. Some suggest that genebanks are servicing mainly multinational seed companies and that industrial countries harbor the lion's share of crop germplasm collections. This article describes the importance of genebanks, analyzes their distribution and beneficiaries, and outlines how geographers can become more involved in the conservation and use of crop genetic resources.