Chapters 1 to 14 of this book are based on papers presented at Sessions I, II and IV of an international workshop held from 5 to 7 March 2005 entitled, The Role of Biotechnology for the Characterisation and Conservation of Crop, Forestry, Animal and Fishery Genetic Resources, organized by the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology (FAO-WGB), the Fondazione per le Biotecnologie and the Italian Society of Agriculture Genetics (SIGA). The workshop took place at the Villa Gualino Congress Center in Turin, Italy and would not have been the success it was without the efficient and scrupulous attention to detail of Claudia Mondino and Elena Spoldi and their co-workers from the Fondazione. The programme for the workshop was developed by Paolo Ajmone Marsan (Catholic University of Piacenza), Sergio Lanteri (University of Turin), Luigi Monti (University of Naples), Andrea Sonnino (FAO-WGB) and Fabio Veronesi (University of Perugia), with the support of John Ruane and helpful inputs from Devin Bartley, Kwame Boa-Amponsem, Elcio Guimarães, Irene Hoffman, Beate Scherf and Pierre Sigaud (all from the FAO-WGB). The support of SIGA, in particular of its President Michele Stanca, is also gratefully acknowledged in this context.
The remaining two chapters, 15 and 16, are from the e-mail conference organized by the FAO-WGB roughly three months after the Turin workshop. Comments from Christel Palmberg-Lerche and Pierre Sigaud on a previous draft of the background document to the conference (Chapter 15) are gratefully acknowledged. During the conference, about 650 people subscribed and 127 e-mail messages were posted from 64 people, whose comments and opinions formed the basis for Chapter 16. We are extremely grateful to all of the individuals who submitted messages, for devoting their time and effort to sharing their views, insights and experiences with the other Forum members. Barbara Hall is thanked for assistance with editorial and layout aspects. Finally, we wish to express special thanks to Jim Dargie, the former Chairperson of the FAO-WGB, and to his successor, Shivaji Pandey, for supporting these activities regarding the role of biotechnology tools for the characterization and conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture.