War plant in Sudanese state Al-Jazeera could affect gene bank

There has been a war in Sudan since last April, with fighting recently spreading to Wad Madani, the capital of Gezira state (central Sudan, south of Khartoum), threatening the loss of thousands of diverse plant genetic strains for food. and agriculture following the goals of the Genetic Resources Bank (Gene Bank), which represents experts on the richness of agricultural biodiversity in Sudan.

an existential threat

The consequences of the war that has spread across its territory represent a fear and existential threat to the treasure trove of plant genetic resources in the gene bank.

Al-Taher Ibrahim Muhammad, former director of the Center for Conservation and Research of Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources, said that the gene bank, which was established in 1982, is considered one of the research centers operating within the system of Agricultural Research Authority. Seed samples of more than 15 thousand accessions collected from different regions are preserved and maintained in, and through, Sudan. Sudan during the last 40 years, and for some incomes even more than that.

In his speech – Al Jazeera Net – al-Taher indicated that the income would be represented by many local, traditional and ancient farmers' varieties as well as wild relatives of many agricultural crops in Sudan such as corn (sorghum), millet, sesame, peanuts, Does it. , cowpeas, Egyptian beans, watermelon seeds, honey squash, okra, tomatoes and peppers. Warm and hibiscus.

Al-Tahir further said, “They all share plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, heritage accumulated over centuries and generations, and basic materials for scientific research and breeding and genetic improvement programs inside or outside Sudan for sustainability and development. Representing agriculture and achieving food, nutrition and environmental security.

Thousands of genetic plant breeds are at risk of being destroyed after the war moved into the state of Al-Jazeera
The Gene Bank is one of the research centers operating within the Agricultural Research Authority system in Sudan. (social media)

extent of damage

At a time when researchers have launched calls to protect the genetic resources in the gene bank, Al Jazeera Net has learned that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has submitted a request to the Sudanese government regarding providing protection to the bank given its importance .

Talal Syed Abdel Halim, director of the Biotechnology and Biosecurity Research Center – Agricultural Research Authority, acknowledged the difficulty in quantifying the losses suffered by the Genetic Resources Bank due to the lack of field visits.

Talal said in his speech – to Al Jazeera Net – that the facts of the events indicate that refrigerators were looted, “refrigerated stores for seeds”, and several employees of the authority settled in a room after seeds were found scattered. Started doing.

In the same context, al-Taher Ibrahim told Al Jazeera Net – according to audio evidence obtained from the site, the bank was attacked, and much of its equipment was looted, especially the coolers in which seed samples were stored. were gone for long periods of time, and envelopes of seed samples were scattered on the floors of the rooms and outside, highlighting its spoilage and damage due to the lack of optimal environmental conditions for its maintenance.

Thousands of genetic plant breeds are at risk of being destroyed after the war moved into the state of Al-Jazeera
The bank preserves more than 15,000 seed samples collected from different regions of Sudan over the course of 40 years (social media)

sustainability of environmental systems

According to experts, the gene bank includes crop varieties needed to develop resilience to climate change and pests.

Al-Taher Ibrahim said genetic resources are considered the main building blocks and basic raw materials for all scientific research and genetic improvement activities aimed at improving the productivity and quality of various agricultural crops.

He said that preserving them is important for the sustainability of various agro-ecosystems, and restoring them whenever they are disturbed, and its importance in achieving food and nutrition security, environmental protection and providing shelter, medicine, clothing for humans. And is shown in providing energy. ,

future risks

In light of the importance of the gene bank, Talal Syed says the world faces future threats from climate change.

“If these genetic resources are destroyed and left out of the system, it will have a real impact on food security,” he said.

On the other hand, Ammar Hassan Bashir, Agriculture Engineer, Department of Food Security, said that the gene bank is a tremendous scientific asset that follows the evolution of plant breeds, preserving the origin and strains of plants with global design for each plant. . , and tracks genetic mutations of various plants.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Ammar believes that targeting the gene bank is part of a plan to destroy the scientific infrastructure in Sudan.

Ammar downplayed the potential impact of the threat the gene bank faces on Sudan's food system in the near term.

Pointing out that the current food system will not be affected, as it is a scientific research bank specializing in plants, and preserving the progress of their breeds, and the threat to the availability of food originating from these plants may be minimal. Is. And basic rules, in the long run.

Thousands of genetic plant breeds are at risk of being destroyed after the war moved into the state of Al-Jazeera
3,200 copies were transferred through the initiative of international organizations and deposited in the Svalbard Global Vault (social media).

urgent plan

Regarding the possibility of saving plant genetic resources in the gene bank, Al-Taher Ibrahim believes that saving the contents of the bank's genetic resources and collecting samples by temporarily moving them to a safe place inside Sudan will improve its financial condition. An immediate plan should be implemented to rehabilitate capabilities. ,

Ibrahim said, “The space should be prepared with the necessary requirements of refrigerators, instruments and equipment, as well as ensuring continuity of electrical supply, and they should be equipped to collect and prepare samples of seeds from different incomes for the purpose of shipping them.” But work must be done.” And they are being sent to the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway for long-term preservation for insurance purposes.”

On his part, Talal Saeed, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Security Research, said the important and urgent step is to transfer the seeds to safe areas and send them to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which was established by the Norwegian government. And it was designed to preserve seeds in a safe and controlled environment.

Talal revealed that 3,200 copies were transferred through the initiative of international organizations, and were deposited in Svalbard's global vault before the fight was moved to Wad Madani, calling for assistance to be provided to transfer the remaining seeds. Went.

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