The Generation Challenge Program, an initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research in Texcoco, Mexico, has announced the launch of a five-year, multi-partner effort designed to bring together existing molecular breeding efforts and provide tools and technical support to enhance plant breeding efficiency in the developing world and beyond.
Molecular breeding — the process of employing molecular markers to select plants with desirable traits — is a more precise, rapid, and cost-effective method of plant breeding than its phenotypic counterpart. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development, and the European Commission, GCP will work to deploy a molecular breeding platform (MBP) that gives researchers in developing nations who may not be affiliated with major research institutions the same access to modern breeding technologies, data management and analysis tools, and valuable breeding material as researchers in the developed world.
Led by a team of researchers from CGIAR, universities, and advanced research laboratories around the world, MBP will pilot ten pre-existing projects on molecular-assisted breeding for seven crops in fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Ultimately, the platform will make available information, tools, and services relating to molecular breeding through an Internet portal and helpdesk for any institution working to meet development goals through crop breeding.
"This project is uniquely positioned to promote research collaboration and increase the number of plant varieties available to small farmers in the developing world," said David Bergvinson, senior program officer for the Gates Foundation's agricultural development initiative. "Bringing together international research to improve farmers' productivity will ultimately help small farmers lift themselves out of hunger and poverty."