Storehouses of seeds or vegetative tissue, kept in low humidity and temperature, to help maintain genetic diversity. Sometimes known as seed banks or germ plasm banks. their contents mostly originate from a wide range of primitive strains and wild crop varieties. The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR), which was established in 1974, promotes the collection, documentation, evaluation, conservation and eventual use of genetic resources of significant plant species. Gene banks are the subject of international controversy because they contain seeds that have mostly been acquired from the developing countries by the industrially rich countries, where they have been used in breeding programmes to develop new strains. Instead of taking decades over a traditional plant breeding programme by fertilization, it is now possible to manipulate directly the genes of plants, creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are plants modified to give a higher resistance to disease and improved growth and yields and, therefore, increase the profit of the plant breeder and farmer.

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