Backgrounder on seeds and seed breeding

| June 7, 2021

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The majority of human food starts as seeds, especially the seeds of cereal crops, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruit. Seeds are generally defined as embryonic plants developing inside a protective outer covering called a seed coat. Planting materials such as cuttings are also included in the broad definition of “seed,” as they are used to grow varieties of many plants.

Small-scale African farmers currently obtain less than 10% of their seeds from the formal seed sector, with the remainder coming from saved seeds, local markets, friends and neighbours, and other traditional seed systems.

Why is this subject important to listeners?

  • Almost all food crops begin as seeds. The quality and characteristics of the seed strongly influence the yield and qualities of the harvested crop.
  • Seeds can also be consumed as food in various forms, including spices, beverages, and cooking oils. Seeds and seed products are also fed to livestock.
  • It’s important to know how policy and legislation in different countries impacts on farmers’ ability to use, breed, and sell seeds.
  • Everyone has a right to food; this begins from and is founded on seeds and seed diversity.

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