Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Genetic resources for Climate-Smart Agriculture production

Production and Resources


This module describes the nature of genetic resources for food and agriculture and outlines why these are essential for climate-smart agriculture. Chapter B8.2 provides a brief description of genetic resources for food and agriculture, considers how they may be affected by climate change and highlights their role in climate-smart agriculture. The next four chapters look specifically at the genetic resources used in four major agricultural sectors: crop production; livestock production; forestry; and fisheries and aquaculture. Chapter B8-7 deals with micro-organisms and invertebrate genetic resources. Each chapter describes how the sustainable use and development of the genetic resources can support climate change adaptation and mitigation, by referring to the main components of genetic resource management: characterization,i  evaluation,ii  inventory,iii  monitoring,iv  sustainable use and conservation. The module concludes with a summary of a set of cross-sectoral actions that could be undertaken to improve the sustainable management of genetic resources to support climate-smart agriculture, which were laid out in the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Integration of Genetic Diversity into National Climate Change Adaptation Planning (FAO, 2015a).

Key messages

  • Genetic resources for food and agriculture are the basis for sustainable, climate-smart agriculture and food security. 
  • A better understanding of genetic resources and their role in agriculture and food production is a prerequisite for developing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. More attention needs to be given to invertebrates and micro-organisms that sustain ecosystem functions.
  • The diversity of genetic resources, which provides options for adapting agricultural production to the impacts of climate change, needs to be conserved and used for the well-being of present and future generations. 
  • Genetic diversity plays a key role in carbon sequestration, particularly in aquatic ecosystems, natural and planted forests, and soils. 
  • Many genetic resources can be conserved in genebanks (ex situ). Others need to be conserved in agricultural production systems or in natural or semi-natural habitats (in situ). Where possible, a combined approach involving complementary in situ and ex situ conservation measures is recommended.
  • Access to genetic resources with relevant traits for climate change adaptation and mitigation is crucial. It is important to recognize that individual countries rely for a significant part upon genetic resources originally collected from other countries.