The diversity of cultivated species and local varieties (landraces) is an irreplaceable foundation for healthy and resilient agrifood systems¹, which are essential for sustainable rural development at the European level.
Agrobiodiversity is constantly decreasing at an alarming rate worldwide, and the threat of extinction of species and varieties is increasing due to various factors such as the intensification of agriculture. In Greece, only 1% of the country’s agricultural land is cultivated with traditional varieties².
Lemnos Island is significant for agrobiodiversity, with many landraces still cultivated today. However, research coordinated by MedINA on Lemnos shows that in recent decades many landraces have been lost, and those that are still maintained are cultivated on a very small scale and face the risk of extinction if suitable incentives for their conservation are not provided³.
The project “LEMRACE – Conservation of the plant genetic wealth of Lemnos: local varieties for sustainable development of the Lemnian agrifood system”, funded by the Green Fund, aims to conserve and promote the use of the island’s landraces. These crop varieties are unique genetic resources for the local agri-food system, constituting a source of prosperity for the local community.
The project is implemented by MedINA in collaboration with the Greek Gene Bank / Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources of ELGO-DIMITRA, building on the scientific results and experience gained in previous years on Lemnos through MedINA’s international Terra Lemnia project. Specifically, the LEMRACE project aims to:
a. Strengthen institutional protection of local varieties through their inscription in the National Register of Crop Varieties of the Ministry of Rural Development & Food.
b. Develop a local network of seed guardians for landraces, engaging agricultural cooperatives and individual farmers of the island, as an informal body for safeguarding and utilising this precious genetic material.
c. Establish a small-scale community seed bank for all traditional varieties cultivated on Lemnos, to facilitate systematic recording of local varieties, safe maintenance of necessary reproductive material, and seed exchange and sharing, providing substantial support to the network of seed guardians.
d. Develop a model short supply chain “from seed to plate” based on collaborations between the primary and tertiary sector.
e. Raise awareness and mobilise the local community, with an emphasis on young people, through educational activities and open participatory events.
The project “LEMRACE – Conservation of the plant genetic wealth of Lemnos: local varieties for sustainable development of the Lemnian agrifood system”, with a budget of €49,750.00, is implemented by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos and the Greek Gene Bank / Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources of ELGO-DIMITRA, in the framework of the funding programme “NATURAL ENVIRONMENT & INNOVATIVE ACTIONS 2023”, Priority Axis 4: “INNOVATIVE ACTIONS WITH CITIZENS”. The project belongs to the thematic field “A.4. Protection and Conservation of Biodiversity” and is funded by the Green Fund.
¹Food and Agriculture Organization (2019). The state of the world’s biodiversity for food and agriculture. In: Pilling JBD, ed. FAO Commission on genetic resources for food and agriculture assessments Rome. 572. Rome: FAO, 2019.
Leite FHM, Khandpur N, Andrade GC, Anastasiou K, Baker P, Lawrence M and Monteiro CA (2022). Ultra-processed foods should be central to global food systems dialogue and action on biodiversity. BMJ Global Health 2022;7:e008269. doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2021-008269
²Ministry of Environment and Energy (2014). Approval of the National Strategy for Biodiversity for the years 2014-2029 and a five-year Action Plan (Ministerial Decision 40332, Gov. Gazette 2383Β/08.09.2014) https://ypen.gov.gr/wp-content/uploads/legacy/Files/Perivallon/Diaxeirisi%20Fysikoy%20Perivallontos/Biopoikilotita/20200323_fek_biodiversity.pdf
³ Bebeli, P.J. and Thanopoulos, R. (editors) 2020. The plant wealth of Lemnos – A source of prosperity for the local community. MedINA, Athens, Greece (in Greek).