First national gene bank encourages research to strengthen agricultural sector

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Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights Anton Refalo, together with Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi launched a new project in the area of plant conservation at the Plant Biotechnology Centre. The new National Gene Bank will serve as a national repository for local wild plants as the facility will collect and store seeds, for conservation and later on use in agriculture. This complements the existing investments at the Plant Protection Directorate. The objective of this facility is to support conservation, sustainable use and development of genetic resources in agriculture, as well as international commitments, which Malta recently signed.

Minister Anton Refalo said that the gene bank will have the means to generate and analyze genetic diversity. The availability of germplasm and the genetic database will contribute to the efforts being carried out worldwide which contribute to food security as well as to develop new varieties that are resilient to common problems such as drought, high soil salinity, changing climates, disease outbreaks, and nutritional efficiency, among others. 

This new high-tech project is another measure, which forms part of the Electoral Manifesto of this government, which prioritizes the conservation of our natural and cultural resources. It will also lay the foundations for furthering research and innovation in plant science.

Parliamentary Secretary Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi emphasised the importance of the preservation of our Maltese Heritage so that we protect endemic species. He said that this centre will not solely strengthen our natural heritage, but it will provide us with food security. He continued by saying that this project is being conducted through the investment of €900,000 in European Funds, so that this bank will be furnished with high-end technological equipment. This investment will facilitate more research in the agricultural sector.

Acting Director of the Plant Protection Directorate Maureen Delia said that in the last years, intensive and important discussions were held with regard to the cost of this innovative project for Malta that shall reach 3 million Euro. The establishment of the facility will be covered by local funds and the equipment will be purchased through European funds under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development