By contrast, other conservation programs lack this user-driven input. It seems to me that scientists must develop aesthetic, moral, and evolutionary arguments for wider conservation practices that are not based on whims of individuals but, rather, are geared to perceived needs such as environmental stabilization and rational land-use planning. Only when studies on biological diversity provide data for these arguments can a clear rationale be presented. It is evident that the environmental data bases needed by my community of scientists are only just being developed. Interestingly, when speaking about wild relatives of crops, a well-known crop botanist recently said that identification of environments was more important than proceeding from past taxonomy and searching large areas with often poor chances of success (G.Ladizinsky, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, personal communication, 1986).

SCIENTIFIC SUPPORT FOR GENETIC RESOURCES WORK

Conservationists outside the field of crop genetic resources frequently base their plea for conservation of wild species on spurious evidence and unrecognized needs resulting from a lack of adequately trained scientific manpower. The work in crop genetic resources has been successful because of its user orientation, and in fact has been solely directed to this end. There is a clear lesson here for the wider conservation movement and also a reminder of the need to identify gaps in scientific knowledge.

The success of IBPGR would not have been possible without the work of botanists, geneticists, and scientists in related disciplines. Nonetheless, there has been insufficient scientific research pertinent to the conservation of crop genetic resources. This has been partly due to lack of funding and partly to the fact that strategic research is often not as attractive to the academic community as basic research. Accordingly, IBPGR has had to shift its program to accommodate strategic problem-solving research, much of it of an interdisciplinary nature.

Areas of research where such problems exist are:

  • the elucidation of patterns of genetic variation using such disciplines as taxonomy, ecology, cytogenetics, molecular biology, and population genetics; and

  • the understanding of genetic stability in conservation systems, again as interdisciplinary work involving genetics, tissue culture, molecular biology, and seed physiology.

IBPGR has initiated relevant research that not only will provide practical solutions to specific problems but also will add to scientific knowledge. Traditional disciplines such as taxonomy and cytogenetics have to keep up with exciting new developments in, for instance, molecular biology. One recent development is the proposal that DNA is in a state of flux. Exchange of genetic material between organelles and nuclei may be possible, while bacterial infection and tissue culture, for instance, may induce new genomic changes in response to changed environments (Hohn and Dennis, 1985).



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