The world needs to conserve its variety of plants for future generations by investing in “gene banks” that can be deployed in the war on hunger and disease, a prominent scientist said Monday.

Plant varieties are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate, with eight percent of plant species running the risk of extinction in the next 25 years, increasing pressure on the international community to preserve the remaining plant genetic resources, geneticists say.

Over the past 50 years new high-yielding uniform varieties of crops have taken the place of thousands of local varieties across large productive areas.