RHS warns of risk to new varieties

Society joins with NCCPG to call for UK help in protecting endangered worldwide habitats to retain the level of plant introductions in the UK

The RHS and the National Council for the Conservation of Plants & Gardens (NCCPG) have teamed up to spearhead the conservation of endangered plant habitats. The move follows concerns that an estimated 34,000 plant species worldwide face extinction because of endangered habitats and changes to patent regulations. The organisations warn that if UK horticulture is to keep the diversity of plants it is used to it needs to take a more active role in the conservation of these plants in their natural habitat. Plant breeders require access to gene pools and experimental plant material, yet patents to protect these are limiting the opportunities to develop new varieties. The industry is also being called on to ensure the countries these plant stocks are sourced from share the benefits of their cultivation. This could be in the form of remuneration or the sharing of horticultural skills. RHS assistant director of science and learning Simon Thornton-Wood said: “Gardeners have a direct interest in the conservation of the natural diversity of plants worldwide. We need to develop a strategy to ensure that gardeners are aware of their stake in global diversity and that they protect plant genetic resources that could improve the horticultural attributes of future cultivated plants.” A meeting held earlier this week — attended by representatives from nurseries, botanical gardens, charities and horticultural bodies — aimed to ensure a co-ordinated UK-wide approach in seeking to develop a national strategy for plant conservation. A plant conservation conference will be held in April 2006. The last such RHS conference in 1978 led to the NCCPG’s creation to protect historically important cultivars.

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