Nations need to speed up the sharing of genetic material from crops if the world is to have any chance of feeding itself in a future with more extreme droughts, floods and storms, a senior U.N. official said.
Scientists say new varieties of wheat, rice, corn and other staples will be needed to cope with rising temperatures, greater extremes of rainfall and diseases in coming decades caused by global warming.
The challenge is all the more great because of a growing human population and shrinking amount of land for agriculture, with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization saying the world must double food production by 2050.
"It's completely a race against time and it's race that we're losing unless we act rapidly," said Shakeel Bhatti, secretary of the governing body for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
For more, see: Facing climate threat, crop gene swaps ever more urgent