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    Conference 13 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture was entitled "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries". It ran from 6 June to 4 July 2005. The Summary Document of the conference (12 pages) provides a summary of the main arguments and concerns discussed during the conference.

    Executive Summary

    Characterisation and conservation of genetic resources of crops, forest trees, livestock and aquatic species are important for all countries, but particularly for developing countries whose economies depend heavily on these sectors, and where genetic resources are often threatened. A number of biotechnology tools are available that can help in characterisation and conservation of such genetic resources, ranging from relatively cheap and uncomplicated technologies to sophisticated, resource-demanding ones. In each of the crop, forestry, animal and fishery sectors, albeit to different degrees, biotechnology tools are currently being applied in developing countries for these purposes and numerous examples of the wide range of applications were provided during this FAO e-mail conference. Of the different biotechnologies, most discussions were about molecular markers, in particular their use for characterisation of genetic resources, where issues such as the advantages or disadvantages of different marker systems and the proposal to develop a universal molecular marker database were debated. In situations involving potential use of marker and non-marker information, such as development of a core collection of plant genebank accessions or prioritisation of animal breeds for conservation purposes, there was general consensus that decisions should not be based on marker information alone and that other factors, such as morphology and agronomic performance, should also be considered. The merits of several in vitro techniques, including tissue culture, cryopreservation and DNA storage, were considered with a view to conservation of genetic resources, where e.g. DNA banks for plants were seen as potentially complementing but not replacing seed banks, at least in the near future. The ability to apply these biotechnologies in developing countries is currently limited by the lack of sufficient funds, human capacity and adequate infrastructure. The importance of human resource capacity building was highlighted. There was a general call for greater collaboration among researchers and practitioners, particularly at the regional level, to reduce costs and pool limited resources, and between developed and developing country institutions. A role was seen for international organisations, including FAO, and the centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), in coordinating these collaborative efforts and in supporting these capacity building activities.

    Read the entire Summary Document of this conference.

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© FAO, 2005