Rome 18 – 26 September 1967
A. General Recommendations
The genetic resources of the plants by which we live are dwindling rapidly and disastrously. As development proceeds in the less advanced as in the more advanced areas of the world, the reserves of genetic variation, stored in the primitive crop varieties which had been cultivated over hundreds or thousands of years and in the primeval forests, equipped with a seemingly inexhaustible range of variation, have been or are being displaced by high-producing and uniform cultivars, and by forest plantations.
What is inevitable and essential progress in one direction is a calamitous deprivation in another - for the developing countries as much as for the developed ones. At a time when a continuing rise in productive efficiency is more essential than at any other for our very existence, plant breeding and plant introduction, perhaps the most powerful single weapon of agricultural improvement, are rapidly being deprived of the very raw materials upon which they depend.
This “erosion” of our biological resources may gravely affect future generations which will, rightly, blame ours for lack of responsibility and foresight. But at this very moment we are equally deprived, because many, one might say most, of these genetic resources are not available for general utilization by plant breeders, agronomists, foresters, horticulturists all the world over. This applies not only to the primitive cultivated crop varieties, but to the wild relatives of cultivated species on which we lean increasingly as sources for disease and pest resistance, specific nutritional qualities, etc.; and to the wild species of forest, range and pasture.
The efforts to explore and collect these invaluable resources are, on a world scale, inadequate, they are oriented by the interests of single nations or institutions, their results are not generally available or even generally known. Nor are there concerted, or even internationally agreed, efforts to preserve the material which has been assembled, or to conserve significant populations or sites in natural habitats in the gene centres, or elsewhere. The few examples of bilateral or multilateral agreements point the way to what can be achieved in a wider sphere.
The Preparatory Meeting of the Conference received accounts from leading scientists from many countries of the biological background underlying the variation in plants useful to man, and of the ways it can be explored, evaluated, harnessed to man's need, and preserved for the future, and discussed ways in which national efforts can be made more fruitful by concerted international co-ordination and co-operation.
the erosion of gene centres has proceeded apace in the period since the last F.A.O. Technical Meeting on Plant Exploration and Introduction, held in 1961, to the extent that noticeable deterioration of plant gene resources has been reported by many observers,
the recommendations of that Conference, though excellent, had slight effect for the possible reasons that there were few which could be readily implemented and that there failed to emerge some permanent group which could bring to bear their enthusiasm and expertise both within, and upon F.A.O., and which could have co-ordinated similar influences within countries with a view to strengthening national, international and F.A.O. involvement.
it is deemed a national and international obligation to discover, conserve and make available the world's plant gene resources to all who at the local, national or international level may profit man by their access to them,
the urgent need to protect from further destruction the plant genetic resources of the world, whether at present known or unknown, of primitive cultivars, and of wild and other species related to them, and able to be employed by man for the continued improvement of agricultural and forest crops,
THIS CONFERENCE urgently recommends to F.A.O., member governments and international organizations as appropriate, that an action programme for the coming years, and an organization which can put it into effect, be initiated.
TOWARDS THIS END this Conference further recommends
(1) that F.A.O. assume greater responsibility for co-ordination of national and international efforts concerned with the exploration, conservation and utilization of plant gene resources in the fields of agriculture and forestry, including those of existing institutes of germ plasm storage and conservation, research institutes, botanic gardens, forest breeding arboreta, seed and information exchange services, and international organizations concerned with plant breeding through officers at its headquarters in the Plant Production and Forestry Divisions respectively and two permanent panels with an action function, composed of recognised authorities in relevant scientific fields;
(2) that surveys of plant material which is threatened with imminent destruction, or which is regarded as essential for plant improvement, whether in existing collections or in the field, be conducted, encouraged and co-ordinated on a local or regional basis, giving special attention to areas in the greatest danger of genetic erosion and according to species priorities.
(3) that national and co-operative regional programmes of exploration and collection, with the support of member governments and the co-operation of scientists and institutions with specialised knowledge of local and regional conditions and of special plant groups, be conducted, encouraged and co-ordinated in accordance with species and regional priorities;
(4) that existing institutions in appropriate areas at present engaged in the study of variation of plant groups serve as centres for advanced training in plant exploration and collection as well as centres for regional exploration where facilities are available or can be made available through international funds in co-operation with the governments concerned;
(5) that the evaluation, utilization and exchange of primitive and other cultivars and their wild relatives, together with genetic stocks including mutation stocks, held in collection, be conducted, encouraged and co-ordinated;
(6) that international programmes for the standardised treatment, storage and retrieval of genetic information relating to germ plasm collections, which are of increasing importance as available plant material increases and its evaluation becomes more complex, and which will depend upon the co-operation of many specialist institutions and individuals, and the standardisation of climatic, ecological, phytogeographic and taxonomic data which may assist exploration and utilization, be conducted, encouraged and co-ordinated so that the great value of such endeavours will be further enhanced;
(7) that the diverse activities involved in conservation which will be one of the most exacting responsibilities of the two F.A.O. panels and headquarters staff concerned, and which will depend upon the collaboration of specialists and institutions in every region as well as within the gene centres, be conducted, encouraged and co-ordinated by appropriate action for conservation in situ, in collections, in seed banks, and in botanic gardens and arboreta, and by drawing up an urgent, high-priority plan for national and international action including the preparation of plans for international germ plasm maintenance and storage;
(8) that, in view of the interest expressed by U.N.D.P. in these proceedings, which is noted with satisfaction, consideration should be given to the participation of the U.N. Special Fund in the development of research and training in plant exploration and collection;
(9) that since many projects involved in the execution of the programme outlined in the recommendations of this Conference will require financial support, and since current budgetary provisions in F.A.O. are totally inadequate to provide the assistance and co-ordination required, and in view of the urgent need for the proposals conveyed in these recommendations to be carried out if serious losses of our genetic resources are to be avoided and the wealth of these resources made available immediately to all, the budget of the Forestry and Plant Production Divisions be immediately and substantially increased so that these recommendations may be realised.
B. Forestry Recommendation
62. The Meeting notes that from a practical point of view, some difference exists in problems of exploration, utilization and conservation of gene resources of forest tree species in comparison with those of crop plants. It also notes the organizational separation within FAO of the Plant Production and Protection Division and the Forestry and Forest Industries Division, each with its own problems and budget.
In view of the urgent need for international co-ordination and financing of the exploration, utilization and conservation of forest gene resources, and of the woeful inadequacy of the current budgetary provisions, the Meeting recommends that:
A committee of experts be established by the Director-General of FAO to plan, co-ordinate and support the Organization's efforts to explore, utilize and conserve the gene resources of forest trees. It would be essential for this Committee to meet once in each of the two years of the forthcoming biennium to prepare a detailed short-term programme as well as a draft long-term programme.
The budget of the Forestry and Forest Industries Division be raised by U.S. $100,000, for the subsequent biennium in order to begin implementation of the action programme which the Committee will develop. It is tentatively suggested, subject to the concurrence of the Committee which will also determine priority species and areas, that the amount mentioned above could be broken down as follows:
|One meeting annually of the Committee plus consultant's services as required||$ 10,000|
|Organization of one major expedition||30,000|
|Strengthening and expansion of select current projects||20,000|
|One specialist officer plus ancillary services||40,000|
Attending First Session of FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources
|"||W.G. Dyson||East African Community|
|"||R. Villaseñor A.||Mexico|
R.G. Fontaine, Chief, Forest Management Branch
O. Fugalli, Chief, Afforestation Section
R.L. Willan, Afforestation Section
J.C. Westoby, Acting Director, Forestry and Forest Industries Division, welcomed the members of the Panel at the opening meeting. L.J.Vernell, Assistant to Director of the Division, attended the final meeting.
FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources
Rome, 21 – 25 October 1968
Section I Medium term planning over the coming decade (1970–79)
Exploration and collection
Integration of the above phases
Section II Action programme for 1970–71
Choice of area and species for expeditions
Methodology to be followed in exploration and collection
Detailed estimates of staff, equipment, duration and finance of expeditions
Seed storage facilities and distribution of seed. Payment for seed. Research into seed storage methods
Detailed standardised procedures for evaluation
Choice of existing research institutes for financial assistance, species and areas to be collected, methods and conditions of financing
Use of existing UNDP/SF projects. Possibilities of international seed collecting projects financed by UNDP
Section III Related activities of Forestry and Forest Industries Division and other organisations
Second World Consultation on Forest Tree Breeding
New edition of Forest Tree Seed Directory
Proposed manual on conduct of tree species trials
Section IV Miscellaneous
Possibilities of using the system of International Standardization, Integration and Mechanization of Crop Data Recording, Processing and Retrieval for Forestry
IBP handbook on Plant Gene Resources
Membership of Panel. Time and place of next session.
1. Western U.S.A. and Canada
2. Eastern U.S.A. and Canada
|" strobus var. chiapensis||2|
4. Central and South America
|P.caribaea var.hondurensis(Nicaragua, Honduras)||1|
|P.oocarpa and varieties||1|
|P.strobus var. chiapensis||2|
5. Northern Europe
6. Mediterranean region, Southern Europe and Near East
|(E)||Pinus brutia var.eldarica||1|
7. Australia/Papua/New Guinea
|" cypellocarpa (‘goniocalyx’)||3|
|" dives var.“C”||1|
|" fibrosa spp. fibrosa(‘siderophloia’)||3|
|" gongy locarpa||3|
|" largiflorens (bicolor)||3|
|" moluccana (hemiphloia)||3|
|" " var.glauca|
|" " " longicornis|
|" radiata var. australiana||1|
(a) North, north-east and central Asia
(b) South-east Asia
|Eucalyptus “decaisneana” (= Brazil“alba”)||1|
|Pinus kesiya(P.khasya, P.insularis)||1|
|(E)||P. merkusii(certain provenances (E))||1|
|(E)||Aucoumea klaineana(coastal provenances=(E))||2|
(E) signifies endangered with extinction or severe depletion of the gene-pool.