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ELEVENTH SESSION OF THE FAO PANEL OF EXPERTS ON FOREST GENE RESOURCES

Brief Note on Outcome of the Session1

The above meeting was held at FAO Headquarters, Rome from 29 September to 1 October 1999. Fourteen Members of the Panel and one invited Resource Person attended the meeting. Collaborators from the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), and the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO), also contributed to the deliberations.

The Panel examined work carried out in the field of forest genetic resources since its previous, Tenth Session (Rome, September 1997), based on reports and reviews at national, regional and international levels2.

The expansion in technical coverage, the increase in the number of institutes and agencies involved, and new developments at the policy, institutional and scientific and technical levels and their implications for the forest genetic resources work of FAO were discussed, and the need for continued harmonization of efforts was stressed. The Panel took note of the debate which had taken place within the framework of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Convention on Biological Diversity, with special reference to the debate on access to genetic resources, intellectual property rights, the use of genetically modified organisms and biosafety. It welcomed FAO's inter-Departmental activities on the use of biotechnologies, and discussed the place and role of these new tools which had considerable potential provided that due attention and resources were allocated by countries to conservation and breeding work underpinning their wise use. The Panel urged FAO to continue to provide timely scientific and technical information to member countries and international organizations on issues related to the use of biotechnologies in forestry, in providing ethical direction and guidance in the use of these new technologies, and to serve as "an honest broker of quality science-based information on biotechnologies"3.

The Panel up-dated the lists of priority species by region and by operational activity regularly prepared by it to complement national and local lists and lists of e.g. endangered forest tree species which are elaborated by other agencies and organizations. In regard to the work of FAO, it drew special attention to a number of specific species and genera in need of international attention (including neem and Neotropical mahogany species).

The Panel passed a number of recommendations stressing the need for continued and increased attention i.a. to the following issues:

  1. Raising of awareness of the social, economic and environmental benefits of conservation and wise utilization of forest genetic resources through well-targeted information, using traditional and new methods of information dissemination;
  2. Provision of up-to-date information on the state of the world's forest genetic resources, notably through continued development of the FAO World-Wide Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (REFORGEN)4;
  3. Facilitation of the exchange of information, technologies and forest reproductive materials for evaluation and conservation purposes, on mutually agreed terms; dissemination of information on access, benefit-sharing and biosafety; support to networking and twinning arrangements;
  4. Support to national institutes in the development and implementation of forest genetic resources programmes within the framework of regional and sub-regional strategies, with a view to developing a country-driven, participatory, global action framework for the sustainable management of forest genetic resources, including their conservation, enhancement and sustainable utilization;
  5. Further development of methodologies, guidelines and pilot activities on the in situ conservation of forest genetic resources, to be implemented as an integral part of sustainable forest management and sustainable resource utilization aimed at meeting present-day social, economic and environmental needs;
  6. Assistance to national institutes in reviewing seed diffusion pathways, aimed at identifying and taking remedial action to overcome institutional delivery system gaps and problems in reaching specified end users of high-quality forest reproductive materials;
  7. Continued collaboration with IUFRO and other international and national partners on harmonization of forest genetic resources-related concepts and terms.

In carrying out the above activities, full use should be made of existing action frameworks, such as national forest programmes, programmes on sustainable forest management, and programmes targeting the conservation of biological diversity, into which genetic resource considerations should be fully integrated.

UPDATE ON IPGRI RESEARCH IN FOREST GENETICS

Since December 1997 the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has published two issues "FORGEN news" - a news bulletin which provides information on IPGRI's research in conservation and sustainable utilization of forest genetic resources. The recent, second issue (March 1999) includes information on:

  • decision making strategies on priorities for conservation and use of forest genetic resources;
  • locating genetic diversity in forest ecosystems in Syria and Lebanon, Mainland South East Asia, Sub Saharan Africa;
  • conservation and sustainable use of bamboo and rattan genetic resources;
  • in situ conservation of forest genetic resources;
  • ex situ conservation of forest genetic resources: IPGRI/DFSC research project on Handling and Storage of Recalcitrant and Intermediate Tropical forest tree seeds;
  • regional programmes and collaboration on forest genetic resources (EUFORGEN, SAFORGEN);
  • IPGRI publications of interest.

Copies of FORGEN news can be obtained from:

IPGRI, Via delle Sette Chiese 142
I - 00145 Rome, Italy
Fax (39) 06 5750309
e-mail: ipgri@cgiar.org

  1. Report in press (FAO 2000).
  2. The most important Secretariat Notes used as a background for discussion can be found on the FAO forest genetic resources homepage: http://www.fao.org/forestry/FOR/FORM/FOGENRES/homepage/fogene-e.htm
  3. See FAO Council document CL 116/Rep- June 1999, paragraph 25.
  4. See article on information activities in this issue of "Forest Genetic Resources".

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