Afghan gene bank destroyed by looters

September 13, 2002

Looters have destroyed Afghanistan's largest gene bank, destroying hundreds of samples of the country's agricultural heritage. Among the crops destroyed were pomegranate, pistachio and chickpea.

The revelation emerged just a week after Imperial College academic Chris Higgins told the Earth Summit that the world's gene banks were in jeopardy.

He announced a £169 million endowment fund by the soon-to-be launched Global Conservation Trust to ensure the maintenance of an estimated 1,470 gene banks and the 5.4 million plant samples that they hold.

The samples in the Afghan collection had been stored in plastic jars and hidden in houses in the cities of Ghazni and Jalalabad. The looters dumped the seed and took the containers.

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