A new National Gene Bank is to serve as a national repository for local wild plants, collecting and storing seeds for conservation and future use in agriculture. 

The €3 million project was launched by Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo and Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi.

The bank complements the existing investment at the Plant Protection Directorate. Its objective is to support conservation, sustainable use and development of genetic resources in agriculture, as well as international commitments, which Malta recently signed. 

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

Zrinzo Azzopardi emphasised the need to protect endemic species so as to preserve Maltese heritage. The centre will also provide food security.

The project is being financed the investment of €900,000 in European funds. The bank will be furnished with high-end technological equipment and the investment will facilitate more research in the agricultural sector. 

Plant Protection Directorate acting director Maureen Delia said the facility will be established by local funds while the equipment will be purchased through European funds.

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