ICARDA Awarded Gregor Mendel Innovation Prize

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Aleppo Genebank Team/ ICARDA

By Katie Lutz/CIMMYT

EL BATAN, Mexico (March 19,2015)- The Gregor Mendel Innovation Prize is awarded each year to an individual or an organization for outstanding contribution in plant breeding. Today, 19 March, The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) was presented this honor in Berlin. The award was presented to director general, Mahmoud Solh, and  ICARDA’s Genetic Resources Section (GRS) team.

Over the last three years, ICARDA has been faced with the looming situation in Syria. Last year, ICARDA’s headquarters in Aleppo was seized by Syrian rebel groups and ICARDA has had to disperse their staff and leave their headquarters in Syria. A group of researchers have put their own safety concerns aside, because leaving Aleppo would be a dramatic loss for ICARDA and international agricultural research. Among the researchers who stayed behind was ICARDA’s GRS team. The GRS team maintains the ICARDA genebank, which stores the world’s largest collection of barley, faba and lentil beans, along with ancient varieties of durum and bread wheat.

Risking their lives in the midst of the Syrian civil war, the scientists are being honored today for their achievement in saving nearly 150,000 varieties of seed. ICARDA’s GRS team has been transporting germplasm  to the Svalbard Seed Vault in Norway. The germplasm being transported are collections of unique landraces and wild relatives of cereals and legumes from the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) that have been a staple to agricultural production for years and are vital to modern science. These seeds could provide the genetics to help in countering diseases that have not yet surfaced, eventually help in in feeding the growing population that we expect to see in the next 40 years.

Read hear for the full story at ICARDA.

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