PR 96/22 - CONFERENCE IN LEIPZIG ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES


PR 96/22

FAO-CONFERENCE IN LEIPZIG IS EXPECTED TO ADOPT GLOBAL PLAN OF ACTION FOR A BETTER MANAGEMENT OF PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES

Rome, June 10 - Delegates from more than 150 countries and some 50 non-governmental organizations will meet in Leipzig, Germany at the International Technical conference on Plant Genetic Resources, 17-23 June 1996. The conference is expected to ratify a Declaration and Global Plan of Action for the better conservation and use of plant genetic resources important for food and agariculture. The meeting is being organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and hosted by the German Government.

In the first report on the "State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources," which will be discussed in Leipzig, FAO warns of a large scale loss of plant genetic resources and the erosion of biodiversity. The spread of modern, commercial agriculture and the introduction of new varieties of crops are the main causes of the loss of genetic diversity, FAO said.

A total of 157 countries, as well as international organizations, such as the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, NGOs, scientists and farmer's organizations participated in the preparation of the first ever Global Plan of Action. The Plan proposes policies and strategies for better management of plant genetic resources at regional, national and global levels, combining traditional knowledge and modern technologies. It will assist countries in strengthening national capabilities for utilising plant genetic resources, plant breeding and seed production. It will also offer assistance to countaries in restoring adapted, native crop varieties following their loss through natural disasters and civil strife.

Only 30 crops such as wheat, rice, maize millet and potatoes provide the major share of world's food, but the diversity within such species is much bigger. This genetic diversity is essential to improving agricultural productivity and sustainibilty. Varieties being lost may contain genes that could be used to improve resistance to pests, diseases and drought.

The Leipzig Conference is expected to provide valuable input to the World Food Summit by Heads of State and Government, to be held in rome 13-17 November 1996. FAO has called the Summit to address the world's food problem and start a concerted campaign to ensure food for all. An estimated 800 million people are still chronically undernourished and 200 million children under the age of five suffer from protein and energy deficiencies. Ensuring the conservation and sustainable utilisation of agricultural biodiversity is a key component of the effort to build food security.

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