Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo and Parliamentary Secretary Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi announced the launch of Malta’s national gene bank in a press conference earlier today.
Malta hosts about 800 native species of plants of which 25 are only found in the Maltese Islands. Having said that, Maltese crop varieties are still under utilised, with around 200 local varieties of fruit trees having been lost over the last century.
The National Gene Bank has thus been launched in a bid to protect what’s left of Malta’s diverse natural heritage. Located in Lija as part of the Plant Directorate complex, this shall be a repository of seeds and propagation material of native and endemic plants. The facility will also be equipped with laboratories and equipment designed to conserve and study plants at a genetic level.
Furthermore, the bank will include a public botanical museum, a herbarium, a specialised library, and a roof garden with low-lying indigenous plants.
“We seek to preserve what is ours, what is Maltese,” Minister Refalo said. “The implementation of the Gene Bank will help us get in contact with foreign countries with their own gene banks, which will help us grow.”
This project is being co-funded by the government and the EU, through the rural development fund, and is expected to be completed by 2022.