Mr. Saigo, Mr. Ishige, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It is a pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the FAO Director General Jacques Diouf and on my own behalf, to this international Plant Genetic Resources symposium. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Teruo Ishige and staff of the National Institute for Agrobiological Sciences for co-sponsoring this important meeting.
Yesterday was the United Nations “World Food Day”. It is a day that aims to draw the world’s attention to the issue of food – something that those in well off countries often take for granted. However, 2011 has seen food – both cost and availability – become a major topic of international concern. Not only are we faced with more than one billion people who do not get enough to eat, we are again seeing the sight of famine on our TV screens. Food cannot be taken for granted and the international community has a responsibility to ensure the foundation of the most basic human right – the right to adequate nutrition – is secure.
Plant genetic resources, their conservation evaluation and use, are the foundation upon which plant breeding and increasing crop productivity depend. Plant genetic resources are an essential component required to adapt agriculture to changes in the environment.
FAO has a long history of activities related to plant genetic resources. Back in the 1950’s FAO was much involved in global seed systems. Then in the 1960 and 70s FAO held a series of Technical Conferences that lead to the scientific principals on which plant genetic resources conservation are based. One outcome of these meetings was the birth of the IBPGR that is now known as Bioversity International that was originally house in FAO. In recent decades FAO has lead the effort to establish a global system with an internationally accepted legal framework for access and benefit sharing of plant genetic resources. The first state of the world plant genetic resources was written and a Global Plan of Action agreed by the international community in 1996. This directly led to the International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA) that came into force in 2004. FAO has recently again reviewed the state of the world plant genetic resources and in July this year a revised Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of PGRFA was agreed by the international community at FAO headquarters in Rome.
But with all these international developments the real proof of the worth of plant genetic resources is how they are used to improve the well being of humans. Today we will hear about some of the impacts of PGRFA. We will also hear how PGRFA may help the global community in the future.
We are particularly please to be here in Tsukuba because this year Japan suffered hugely from the various impacts of the earthquakes and tsunami that occurred in March. These tragedies prompted a huge response from the international community concerned about the plight of affected people. This international spirit of cooperation is what is essential in the field of PGRFA and one of the important aims of the meetings here in Tsukuba this week is to foster relationships and trust among the PGRFA workers in Asia and the Pacific.
I trust that you will make the most of your time together. Thank you.