Skip to main content

Plant Breeding

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 29 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what funding has been allocated by his Department to strengthen public sector research on seed varieties (a) in the UK and (b) overseas; and if he will ask the World Bank to increase its lending for such projects; (79836)

(2) if he will list the public sector projects his Department has funded for plant breeding in developing countries in the last three years;

(3) whether his Department has (a) undertaken and (b) commissioned research into (i) the extent of the role of the private sector within the global seed industry and (ii) the impact of the private sector’s role on (A) developing new plant varieties for poor farmers and (B) the diversity of genetic resources available to public plant breeders.

DFID has allocated a total of £15.8 million to support public sector research on improved seed varieties, including plant breeding, over the past three years. The vast majority of research supported has been carried out overseas, with some advanced research being carried out at UK institutions, including the John Innes centre and the university of Leeds.

DFID is already working with the World Bank and other donors to see how we can increase the quality and quantity of aid given for agricultural research. For example, we are working in Africa to support regional agricultural research programmes. We expect this will lead to increased grants and loans for research from the World Bank and other donors. We expect some of these funds will be used to support plant breeding and development of new seed varieties that meet the needs of poor farmers.

DFID’s Plant Sciences Research Programme managed by the centre for arid zone studies at the university of Wales at Bangor allocated £3.6 million over the last three years for plant breeding research with overseas partners. This included work on: resistance of pearl millet to downey mildew, nematode resistance of rice, banana and potato, aluminium tolerance in wheat, new breeding methods based on farmer participation in design and selection of varieties of rice, maize and cassava, and genetic marker assisted methods for pearl millet improvement.

DFID also provides core funding to the international agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Centres vary in the proportion of their budgets devoted to plant breeding. Of the core support DFID has given to centres, over the last three years, we estimate that £12.2 million has been used to support research on plant breeding and improving crop varieties for the benefit of poor people in developing countries.

DFID has not undertaken, or commissioned, research into the extent of, and impact on, the role of the private sector within the global seed industry. However policy research has been carried out which examined the pros and cons of revenue generation from public plant breeding and links to the private sector. (Tripp and Byerlee 2000, http://www.odi.org.uk/NRP/57.html). DFID is also supporting the Seeds of Development Programme managed by the university of Cornell. The purpose of this programme is to better understand the role of private sector in achieving agricultural growth which benefits poor people by improving their access to better quality seeds.