Codes, standards and guidelines

Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Developing sustainable value chains for small-scale livestock producers

This publication constitutes a practical development tool, which implements the sustainable food value chain framework with a focus on small-scale livestock producers, targeting an audience of project design teams and policy-makers. Small-scale livestock producers are important actors in food production, human health and management of landscapes and animal genetic resources. However, they face a number of challenges, which hamper their productivity, access to market, and competitiveness vis-à-vis their larger counterparts. By integrating the concepts of value addition and the three dimensions of sustainability, the sustainable food value chain framework not only addresses questions concerning the competitiveness, inclusion and empowerment of small-scale producers, but also incorporates the cross-cutting issues that are increasingly embedded in development projects. These guidelines take the user through the different steps of value chain development, highlighting the particularities of the smallholder livestock sector, such as multi-functionality, specific production cycles or food safety issues, through concrete examples.

Guidelines for Development of Integrated Multipurpose Animal Recording Systems

National animal recording systems offer the opportunity to support several objectives, including performance and pedigree recording, health and disease monitoring, traceability, prevention of stock theft and animal genetic resource management. These guidelines provide advice on the planning, development and implementation of comprehensive systems that can address all of these goals, as well as to maximize the chances that these systems will be sustained. The guidelines were endorsed by the Commission at its Fifteenth Regular Session in 2015.

Surveying and monitoring of animal genetic resources

Knowledge of animal genetic resources is fundamental to their sustainable use, development and conservation. These guidelines provide advice on how to draw up a strategy for meeting national requirements for data and information on animal genetic resources. They also offer practical advice on how to plan and implement animal genetic resources surveys. They were endorsed by the Commission at its Thirteenth Regular Session in 2011.

Phenotypic characterization of animal genetic resources

These guidelines offer advice on how to conduct a well-targeted and cost-effective phenotypic characterization study that contributes to improving animal genetic resources management in the context of country-level implementation of the Global Plan of Action. They were endorsed by the Commission at its Thirteenth Regular Session in 2011.

Molecular genetic characterization of animal genetic resources

These guidelines provide a short overview of developments in the field of molecular characterization, along with practical advice for researchers who wish to undertake a molecular characterization study. They emphasize the importance of obtaining high-quality and representative biological samples that yield standardized data that can be integrated into analyses on an international scale. They were endorsed by the Commission at its Thirteenth Regular Session in 2011.

Breeding strategies for sustainable management of animal genetic resources

Genetic improvement is an essential component of animal genetic resources management and can make important contributions to food security and rural development. These guidelines, which were endorsed by the Commission at its Twelfth Regular Session in 2009, are intended to help countries develop effective and sustainable genetic improvement programmes, taking into account their livestock development objectives and the characteristics of their production systems.

Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources

These guidelines provide advice on how to plan and implement a cryoconservation programme (conservation based on the maintenance of frozen genetic material): from priority setting and institutional development to the practicalities of designing and constructing a gene bank and cryoconserving different types genetic material. They were endorsed by the Commission at its Thirteenth Regular Session in 2011.

In vivo conservation of animal genetic resources

These guidelines provide advice on how to plan and implement an in vivo conservation programme (conservation based on the maintenance of live animals): from the development of a national conservation strategy to the implementation of breeding programmes in small populations and a range of methods that can be used to promote the self-sustainability of at-risk breeds. They were endorsed by the Commission at its Fourteenth Regular Session in 2013.

Preparation of national strategies and action plans for animal genetic resources

Preparing and implementing national strategies and action plans helps countries translate the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources into comprehensive and effective national approaches to the sustainable use, development and conservation of livestock biodiversity. These guidelines, which were endorsed by the Commission at its Twelfth Regular Session in 2009, set out a practical approach to the development of a national strategy and action plan, describing how to get the planning process started, implemented and completed – culminating in government endorsement of the plan. They may also be useful in the revision and implementation of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans.

Developing the institutional framework for the management of animal genetic resources 

A sound institutional framework provides a basis for effective management of animal genetic resources both nationally and internationally. These guidelines  present an overview of the components of the global network for the management of animal genetic resources and provide advice on how these components can be strengthened at national and regional levels. They were endorsed by the Commission at its Thirteenth Regular Session in 2011.

Guidelines supporting the implementation of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources

Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Technical Guidelines for responsible fisheries and aquaculture development – 3. Genetic resource management

At its Eleventh Regular Session in 2007, the Commission recognized the importance and vulnerability of aquatic genetic resources, their roles in an ecosystem approach to food and agriculture, and their contributions to meeting the challenges presented by climate change. The Commission also confirmed the need to develop technical guidelines for the conservation and sustainable use of aquatic genetic resources in relation to the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Together with FAO's Regular Programme, the World Fisheries Trust and technical experts, the Commission supported the preparation of the guidelines Aquaculture development – 3. Genetic resource management  by FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. The guidelines were developed to support FAO's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. They provide a set of instruments that support the improvement of genetic resources management in aquaculture and are addressed to decision-makers as well as to senior resource officers, consumers and others interested in responsible fisheries and aquaculture.

Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Voluntary Guidelines for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Farmers’ Varieties/Landraces

The cultivation of diverse farmers’ varieties/landraces, which tend to be well-adapted and suited to local production systems, confers increased resilience for crop production. Farmers’ varieties/landraces are also potential sources of traits for crop improvement, especially for developing varieties tolerant to biotic and abiotic stresses and for incorporating farmer-preferred traits. Unfortunately, many of these genetic resources have been replaced by modern cultivars in recent decades, resulting in a reduction in the total number of different varieties grown and/or loss of heterogeneity. Such losses make farming systems less resilient, especially to shocks from abiotic and biotic stresses. These guidelines, intended as reference materials for preparing a National Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Farmers’ Varieties/Landraces, will contribute to addressing this continuing loss of diversity. The guidelines are therefore a useful tool for development practitioners, researchers, students and policymakers who work on the conservation and sustainable use of these valuable resources.

Voluntary guidelines for the conservation and sustainable use of crop wild relatives and wild food plants

These Guidelines are aimed as reference material for national governments conservation and sustainable use preparing a National Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Food Plants. The focus is on in situ conservation and fostering linkages between it and the ex situ conservation and ultimately, the use of CWR and wild food plants. The precise process of preparing the National Plan will depend on the national context, including the availability of baseline data, existing policy framework, and remit of the agencies that are responsible for its formulation and implementation, as well as on the resources available for its implementation.

Guidelines for developing a national strategy for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture

These guidelines will assist countries to implement the Second Global Plan of Action through a national strategy in harmony with other relevant national and international commitments. Cognizant of each country’s needs, capacities and constraints, national strategies for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture should identify a national vision, goals and objectives, and the corresponding plan of action, including responsibilities, resources and timeframes for activities relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The guidelines were endorsed by the Commission at its Fifteenth Regular Session in 2015.

Voluntary guide for national seed policy formulation

At its Fifteenth Regular Session in 2015, the Commission endorsed the Voluntary guide for national seed policy formulation. The availability of, and access to, quality seeds of a diverse range of adapted crop varieties is essential for achieving food and livelihood security and for eradicating hunger, especially in developing countries. This guide: explains what seed policies are and how they differ from seed laws; describes the participatory process of seed policy formulation; the nature and layout of seed policy documents; key elements contained in seed policies; and addresses issues involved in their implementation. It is specifically intended for use by policy-makers, national seed agencies, civil society, and public and private sector organizations, including national seed associations and farmers’ organizations involved in the seed sector.

Genebank standards for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture

The Genebank Standards for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, which were endorsed by the Commission in 2013, are the outcome of a revision of the 1993 FAO/ International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) Genebank Standards. The revision was undertaken at the request of the Commission in the light of changes in the global policy landscape and advances in science and technology. Whereas the 1993 Genebank Standards addressed the storage of orthodox seeds only, the revised Genebank Standards also cover field genebank standards and standards for in vitro culture and cryopreservation.

International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer

The International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer  aims to promote the rational collection and sustainable use of genetic resources, to prevent genetic erosion and to protect the interests of donors and collectors of germplasm. Among other elements, it sets out minimum responsibilities, with respect to the collection and transfer of plant germplasm, for collectors, sponsors, curators and users of germplasm. The Code is addressed primarily to governments and is intended to be implemented in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity and other legal instruments protecting biological diversity. The Code, adopted by the FAO Conference in 1993, was negotiated through the Commission, which is also responsible for overseeing its implementation and review.

Cross-sectoral

ABS Elements: Elements to facilitate domestic implementation of access and benefit-sharing for different subsectors of genetic resources for food and agriculture – with explanatory notes

The ABS Elements – with explanatory notes aim to assist governments considering developing, adapting or implementing ABS measures to take into account the importance of GRFA, their special role for food security and the distinctive features of the different subsectors of GRFA, while complying, as applicable, with international ABS instruments. They were welcomed  by the Commission and the FAO Conference in 2019.

Voluntary guidelines to support the integration of genetic diversity into national climate change adaptation planning

These guidelines address the genetic resources dimension of adaptation planning. They aim to assist countries in managing genetic resources – the diversity of plants, animals, aquatic resources, forests, micro-organisms and invertebrates – as a pivotal reservoir and tool at their disposal to adapt agriculture and build resilience into agricultural and food production systems. The guidelines were endorsed by the Commission at its Fifteenth Regular Session and approved by the Thirty-ninth Session of the FAO Conference in 2015. 

Voluntary guidelines for mainstreaming biodiversity into policies, programmes and national and regional plans of action on nutrition

These guidelines aim to assist countries to make the best use of biodiversity for food and agriculture in their nutrition programmes. They provide examples of how mainstreaming could be implemented, depending on countries’ needs and capabilities, as appropriate. The Commission stressed that implementation should be based on scientific evidence and be consistent with relevant international obligations. They were endorsed by the Commission at its Fifteenth Regular Session in 2015.