Thematic Issues
Agricultural biodiversity

Agricultural biodiversity (agro-biodiversity) has a key role to play in relation to food security, eradication of poverty and sustainable ecosystem functioning.

Agriculture is the third engine of growth in Malaysia which contributed US$16.55 billion or 7.7% of Malaysia’s GDP in 2011 which increased to 10.1% in 2012. Malaysia’s agriculture sector largely consists of oil palm, rubber, rice fields, cocoa, fruit orchards, industrial crops (tuberous crops, fibre, and medicinal plants), vegetable farms, livestock rearing and aquaculture farms.

Sustainable utilization of agrobiodiversity resources is a key component within the agriculture sector in Malaysia. Agencies such as the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) come under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (MOA). Collectively these implementing agencies works towards ensuring that genetic resources including plants, microbes, farm animals and arthropods are continuously conserved and sustainably used. These agrobiodiversity resources are essential for future breeding purposes, improving plant varieties or animal breeds; to develop traits that are resistant to pests and diseases; for utilization as biofuel, biopesticides and in food product development.

Plant genetic resources including rice, fruits, medicinal plants, biopesticidal plants, ornamental plants, underutilized fruits etc. are conserved in Malaysia both via in-situ and ex-situ means and mainly in germplasms throughout Malaysia. For example, rice germplasms collection conserved in seed gene banks are as follows; in MARDI, a total of 12,091 rice accessions is found, the Department of Agriculture in Sabah has 1,000 accessions and the Agricultural Research Centre in Sarawak contain 3,938 rice accessions. There has been a substantial increase in these rice accessions since the last reporting period.

In relation to animal genetic resources, conservation of these resources comes within the purview of the DVS and MARDI for the improvement of new varieties. Malaysia has a National Animal Embryo Centre (NAEC) which conducts farm animal research and development (R&D) in collaboration with national and international agencies.

With regard to insect genetic resources, there are more than 30,000 preserved specimens conserved at the Insect Museum at MARDI, DOA and local universities for R&D as well as education and awareness purposes. With regard to microbial and fungal genetic resources, a number of research institutes and universities have registered their respective microbial collections with the World Data Centre for Microorganisms (WDCM). These collections will be continuously increased and registered for future R&D and education purposes.

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