At its 12th Session, held in Rome in November 2001, the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources discussed the place and role of traditional breeding and new biotechnological tools in the wise management of forest genetic resources. In regard to biotechnologies, the Panel noted that such technologies had considerable potential provided that due attention and resources were allocated to conservation and conventional breeding programmes underpinning their application and safe use. The Panel noted with concern that the present public and scientific debate often misleadingly over-publicized the potential of transgenic technologies and single gene effects, with the underlying assumption that "genes for growth", or "genes for adaptation to harsh environments", might be found. It stressed that such assumptions under-estimated the complexity of genetic systems and underlying physiological processes and that they tended to divert attention away from more realistic approaches and goals. The Panel welcomed FAO's increased inter-Departmental activities in biological diversity, biotechnology and bioprotection, and recognized the role of the Organization as "An Honest Broker" in these fields. The Panel took note of the on-going international dialogue, and warmly welcomed the recent approval by the 31st Session of the FAO Conference of the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (see an information item on the International Treaty in the present issue of Forest Genetic Resources, FGR). A brief note on the 12th Session of the Panel can be found in this issue of FGR.
The present issue of FGR also includes information on the 6th meeting of the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD/COP-6), which was held in The Hague, Netherlands, in April 2002. CBD/COP-6 discussed and agreed in principle upon an expanded work programme on forest biological diversity and, in regard to its implementation, called for collaboration and support from relevant international and national organizations. The need for close links with the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), was underlined. While identifying a number of specific activities related to regional and international cooperation, CBD/COP-6 stressed that signatory countries should set their own priorities when addressing those issues in the work programme which targeted action at the national level. The 52 Secretariat Notes, 48 Information Notes and 14 other documents which were used as a basis for discussions in CBD/COP-6, can be accessed at: http://www.biodiv.org/meetings/cop-06.asp
Over the past months, the FAO Forestry Department Homepage has been substantially revised (http://www.fao.org/forestry/index.jsp). Also the forest genetic resources homepage has been given a new look. In addition to information on inter-departmental work, international activities and relevant forest genetic resources topics, direct links are provided to a large number of Forest Genetic Resources Working Papers, available both on-line and in printed version. Many of these documents contain recent, country based information on national, sub-regional and regional forest genetic resources programmes and priorities. For access, see http://www.fao.org/FORESTRY/FOR/FORM/FOGENRES/homepage/fogene-e.stm.
Contributions in FGR No. 30, as customary, report on programmes and projects carried out by partner institutions in all regions of the world, and cover a range of activities from in situ and ex situ conservation, species and provenance testing, to breeding, biotechnologies and potentially invasive tree species. Proposed contributions for future issues, not exceeding 2000 words, are welcome. Please address correspondence to:
Forest Resources Development Service