It underpins nearly everything we eat and drink,” according to the Crop Trust, which was founded in 2004 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Bioversity International to help provide financial support for the preservation of crop genetic diversity through genebanks. An extreme example of the consequences of the loss of genetic diversity is the Irish potato famine. Ireland relied so heavily on monoculture of potatoes that when blight caused the potatoes to rot, they lost their staple food source. It’s important to note that other social and economic factors were at play here, but the lack of genetic diversity was certainly a contributing factor. Had the Irish deployed Frank Figge’s portfolio theory to its food economy, the infamous potato famine might not have dealt such a devastating blow. The portfolio theory takes a lesson from the financial industry, where advisors recommend diversifying where and how you invest your money to help minimize risk and build assets. Crop diver- sity is your “portfolio.” This same concept, Figge argues, should be applied to preserving genetic diversity. “Portfolio theory is usually applied to assets such as shares,” Figge wrote in his 2004 paper, “Bio-folio: applying portfolio theory to biodiver- sity.” “Genes, species or ecosystems can also be considered assets.” An excerpt reads: “There is considerable research on the contribution of biodiversity to the resilience of ecosystems. Resilience of an ecosys- tem can be interpreted as the ability to absorb changes and disturbances before it changes from one state to another.” Preserving and even creating genetic diversity is increasingly important as farmers and plant breeders look to deal with climate change and mounting pest and disease pressures. “To have a chance to create new varieties that will perform, we need genetic diversity,” Gouache says. “The more sources of genetics that plant breeders have, the better their chance of mixing, combining and tackling the challenge they set out to address.” During the Seventh Session of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture’s Governing Body, Jean-Christophe Gouache, president of the International Seed Federation, discussed the importance of keeping a multi-optional approach for benefitsharing. “Resilience of an ecosystem can be interpreted as the ability to absorb changes and disturbances before it changes from one state to another.” –Frank Figge 28 / SEEDWORLD.COM JUNE 2018