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The loss of heirloom and landrace crop varieties over the last century is well documented. Consolidation in the seed industry, changes in breeding methods and technology, restrictive intellectual property practices, and the loss of wild and farming land to development all contribute to the erosion of the plant genetic materials that are essential to sustaining life.
In addition to this loss in genetics there has been a concurrent loss in the base of knowledge and skills necessary to properly steward and improve plant genetics in an ecologically and ethically sound manner. Farmers, once the primary seed stewards around the globe, have rapidly been removed from the seed circle - no longer participating in plant breeding or conservation. Only a few generations ago, the practices of on-farm seed saving and basic crop improvement were not only common, but necessary.While university and private sector involvement in seed systems has provided much gain, it has also created a field of specialization that has left the farmer as an "end-user" of a product instead of an active participant in building and maintaining plant genetic health and diversity. The diversity of our domesticated plant genetics - flavor, color, abundance, nutrition - is a direct result of the relationship between farmers and their crops. The unhealthy trends in seed systems put us at risk of losing our seed heritage - and the skills necessary to conserve, reinvigorate and improve this heritage for future generations.
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