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Search to save wild food crops from climate change

A global search to save the wild relatives of wheat, rice, potato and other food crops from climate change was launched today.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) said the campaign was designed to protect global food supplies against changes in climate and strengthen international food security.

Norway pledged US$50m (£31.8m) to the effort, which will look for 23 food species including barley, lentils, chickpeas and beans, and is being supported by Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens based in Kew, Surrey.

GCDT executive director Cary Fowler said: "All our crops were originally developed from wild species - that's how farming began.

"But they were adapted from the plants best suited to the climates of the past. Climate change means we need to go back to the wild to find those relatives of our crops that can thrive in the climates of the future.

"We need to glean from them the traits that will enable modern crops to adapt to new, harsher and more demanding situations. And we need to do it while those plants can still be found."

The work is scheduled to take 10 years, from locating seeds for the crops to preparing them for growth.

Once found, the seeds will be stored in locations around the world, including Kew and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

Around one in five of the Earth's plants is threatened with extinction, a spokesman for the Royal Botanic Gardens said.

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