Is a pandemic the time to think about genebanks?

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Reasons to consider seeds in the time of the coronavirus

Perhaps you think that the middle of a global pandemic is not an appropriate time to be discussing seed banks.

Think again.

Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is primarily a health crisis, of course – but it is affecting all parts of society and the economy, a major result being that people are especially worried about where their next meal will come from. With agricultural and food systems reeling globally, the focus of decision-makers is, at the moment, mainly on the business end of the food chain: on keeping global trade moving, supermarkets stocked and people fed. It is not the virus causing large numbers of people to flee Delhi and other large cities in the developing world, but the fear of hunger.

But farmers need to keep producing and selling too, as well as middlemen buying, processors processing. It’s too early to say how exactly the food system will be impacted in the long term. One thing is certain, though: to mitigate the effects of future shocks of the kind we’re currently experiencing, and to allow us to bounce back from them, there needs to be diversity in all parts of the food chain.

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