In traditional systems, genetic biodiversity is maintained both through cultural intervention and through natural selection. On the other hand, traditional cultivars have a twofold value that make them worth preserving: as germplasm repositories that can eventually be inserted into modern crops, and as a complex genetic bank adapted to specific environment conditions. To people living in developing countries, these cultivars have an additional value -- to allow production for self-subsistence where modern crops are either not available or not adequate.
The [Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme] of the Netherlands Center for Genetic Resources is designed to unite two forms of crop improvement and conservation which operate side by side with little interaction. The institutional system linking genebanks with institutional and private industry, breeding, seed production and, ultimately, distribution to farmers. The non-institutional informal system is called the farmer/community system and uses local landraces and integrating conservation and utilization in a dynamic system of on-farm crop improvement and seed production. In most of the developing world the informal seed sector is much larger than the formal seed sector. The main difference is not between commercial and subsistence farms, but between crop types. It would be of great benefit for both systems if cooperation was established.