Participatory plant breeding
Participatory breeding is a collective mode of genetic improvement of plants which brings together different stakeholders, including researchers, farmers, facilitators, etc. This participatory approach supplements the limits of the delegating mode of plant breeding established post-war in Europe, mode in which research and innovation were delegated by farmers to a small group of professionals, breeders and seed companies.
Furthermore, the established delegative mode has led to an increasing uniformity of crops, selected for intensive farming, based on chemical inputs.
Participatory breeding has thus emerged from farmers’ desire to reclaim the knowledge of selection and therefore gain autonomy. This changes roles through an active participation of farmers at all stages of the selection process. This system therefore equitably promotes the farmer’s and the researcher’s contribution. The objectives of participatory breeding also include developing varieties of populations that are adapted to the farmers’ diverse practices and recreating a dynamic genetic diversity that evolves with the variability of its environment (climate change, pathogen pressure …).
However, developing this selection mode is linked to the developments of the regulatory framework which to date does not include it. Indeed, for a variety to be recognized as such and registered in the official catalogue it must comply with the “DHS” criteria (Distinction, Uniformity, Stability). On the other hand, heterogeneous and evolutionary traits are sought for the varieties selected in a participatory manner.
Participatory breeding is a practice which promotes the development of agroecology by having an approach that goes beyond the traditional scientific framework and by taking into account a territory’s economic, social and environmental potentials. Indeed, it encourages farmers’ financial autonomy, promotes a system that contributes to the redistribution and share of knowledge and works for the preservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
References to explore
Ceccarelli E.P. Guimarães E. Weltizien (eds.). 2009. Plant breeding and farmer participation. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, 2009. 685p.
DIVERSIFOOD Project. Participatory plant breeding. Video 3:36′. European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under Grant Agreement n° 633571
Halewood, M.; Deupmann, P.; Sthapit, B.R.; Vernooy, R.; Ceccarelli, S. 2007. Participatory plant breeding to promote Farmers’ Rights. Biodiversity international.