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The FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources was established in accordance with the directives of the Fourteenth Session of the FAO Conference (November 1967), which read as follows:

“244. Forest Tree Genetic Resources. The Conference requested the Director-General to take into account Recommendation No. 62 of document C 67/AG/FO/1 in formulating the Programme of Work and Budget for 1970–1971. It recognized that as development proceeds in the less as in the more advanced areas of the world, the reserves of genetic variation stored in the natural forests have been or are being displaced on an increasing scale. Moreover, efforts to explore and collect forest genetic resources were, on a world scale, inadequate and inadequately concerted.

245. The Conference requested the Director-General to establish a panel of experts on Forest Gene Resources to help plan and coordinate FAO's efforts to explore, utilize and conserve the gene resources of forest trees and, in particular, help prepare a detailed short-term programme and draft a long-term programme for FAO's action in this field and to provide information to Member Governments.”

The Director-General established the Panel in 1968. A list of current members of the Panel appears in Appendix 1.

The Panel held its first session in Rome in October 1968, its second in Macon, GA (USA) in March 1971, its third in Rome in May 1974, its fourth in Canberra (Australia) in March 1977 and its fifth in Rome in December 1981. Reports of these sessions have been published (FAO, Rome 1969, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1984).

The sixth session of the Panel was held in Rome, Italy from 10 to 12 December 1985. Members attending were:

R. Morandini(Chairman; Italy*)
F. Ng(Vice-Chairman, Malaysia)
M. Corbasson(France)
F.D. Dogra(India)
M. Ferreira(Brazil)
M. Hagman(Finland)
H. Keiding(Denmark)
R.H. Kemp(UK)
O. Ochoa M.(Honduras)
Pan Chih-Kang(China)
F. Patiño(Mexico)
J.W. Turnbull(Australia)
C.W. Yeatman(Canada)
H. Zedan (UNEP) and O. Hamann (IUCN) attended in observer capacity.

C. Palmberg, Chief Forest Resources Development Branch (FORM) acted as Secretary of the Panel, assisted by L. Graudal (FORM). Other FAO staff who attended parts of the session were J.P. Lanly, Director Forest Resources Division; G.S. Child, Forest Wildland Conservation Branch. Staff from the Plant Production and Protection Division of FAO; and from the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) also informed the Panel about related activities carried out by them.

The Panel unaimously elected Professor R. Morandini Chairman and Dr. F. Ng Vice-Chairman. The Agenda adopted appears in Appendix 2. A list of background documents discussed by the Panel, is given in Appendix 3.

(* represented also IUFRO)


During its 6th Session, held in Rome 10–12 December 1985, the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources noted with satisfaction the increased attention at a global level being paid to work in the genetic resources field, reflected i.a. in the recent establishment of the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources. It warmly welcomed the establishment of this Commission, which complements the technical and scientific advisory functions carried out by the Panel.

The Panel noted with concern that the rate of loss or impoverishment of forest genetic resources in the widest sense of the word (including also e.g. wild crop relatives) continues to increase, and that actions to explore, evaluate and conserve these resources are still wholly inadequate. In view of the urgency of the situation, and the great increase in scope and responsibilities in the genetic resources field over the past few years, the Panel strongly recommend that resources allocated in support of this field be increased, both for operations in the field (through extra-budgetary resources) and for appropriate strengthening of the FAO Secretariat responsible for coordinating the programme. Such strengthening would facilitate the most effective use of opportunities for the collection of information and research material essential for the proper exploration, evaluation, conservation and utilization of forest genetic resources.

The Panel recommended that high priority continue to be given to in and ex situ conservation of plant and forest genetic resources. Recognizing that conservation of forest genetic resources is only possible on a large scale through its incorporation in forest management and its inclusion as an integral part of tree breeding strategies, it recommended that appropriate linkages be developed between conservation on the one hand and forest management and tree improvement on the other. It also recommended that efforts be made to incorporate genetic resource conservation as a stated objective in management plans of existing protected areas.

Recognizing that activities in in situ and ex situ conservation are complementary and that efforts in these two fields should be carried out in parallel, the Panel recommended that a survey be carried out on the FAO/UNEP ex situ pilot conservation stands established in a range of countries in the 1970's and on the role that these stands have played in the provision of genetic material and in generating similar action in other species and areas; that the survey of seed storage as a means of ex situ conservation carried out for the previous session of the Panel be reviewed and, if necessary, updated; and that developments in advanced technologies of genetic resource conservation like cryopreservation and meristem culture be closely followed for their possible application in the forestry field.

The Panel recommended that attention be focussed on exploration, collection, evaluation and conservation of multi-purpose woody species which provide a range of goods and services and which contribute to environmental stabilization and improvement.

The Panel recommended that work continue to be carried out through existing institutes, thus simultaneously strengthening their capabilities and know-how. It further recommended that ⅓ of Regular Programme funds available for contractual services in the forest genetic resources field be used for conservation activities; and ⅔ for seed collection, handling, storage, evaluation of seedlots and tree improvement. Approximately ⅓ of total funds should be used for the humid zones, ⅔ in dry areas where problems of genetic resource conservation and the procurement of reproductive materials are acute.

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