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Rome, Italy 28–30 June 1993


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 C67/AG/FO/1 in formulating the Programme of Work and Budget 1970–71. It recognized that, as development proceeds in the less as well 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 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, Italy in October 1968, its Second in Macon, Georgia (USA) in March 1971, its Third in Rome (Italy) in May 1974, its Fourth in Canberra (Australia) in March 1977, its Fifth in Rome (Italy) in December 1981, and its Seventh in Rome (Italy) in December 1989. Reports of these Sessions have been published (FAO, Rome 1969, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1984, 1988, 1990).

The Eighth Session of the Panel was held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy from 28 to 30 June 1993.

Members attending the Eighth Session of the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources were:

Mr. S.J. Midgley(Australia)
Mr. P.Y. Kageyama(Brazil)
Mr. F. Mesén(Costa Rica)
Mr. J.G. Lorougnon(Côte d'Ivoire)
Mr. B.A. Ditlevsen(Denmark) - Vice-Chairman
Mr. V. Koski(Finland)
Ms. H.I. Joly(France)
Mr. D.N. Tewari(India)
Mr. R. Morandini(Italy)
Mr. F. Patiño Valera(Mexico) - Chairman
Mr. Suree Bhumibhamon(Thailand)
Mr. R.D. Barnes(U.K.)
Mr. Gene Namkoong(Canada/USA)
Mr. D.P. Gwaze(Zimbabwe).

Mr. Wang Houran (China), was unable to attend due to circumstances beyond his control and that of the Secretariat of the Panel.

The following observers attended the meeting:

Mr. D. Boland(ICRAF)
Mr. M. Iwanaga(IBPGR)1
Mr. A.S. Ouedraogo(IBPGR)1
Mr. C. Matyas(IUFRO)
Mr. H. Zedan(UNEP).

Ms. Christel Palmberg-Lerche, Chief Forest Resources Development Branch (FORM) acted as Secretary of the Panel, assisted by Mr. Oudara Souvannavong, Forestry Officer (Forest Genetic Resources) and Ms. Agnete Thomsen (Associate Professional Officer, Plantation Forestry and Forest Genetic Resources), FORM. Mr. J.P. Lanly, Director, Forest Resources Division (FORD), and Mr. F.S.P. Ng, Chief Forest Research, Education and Training Branch (FORE), attended parts of the Session. Mr. N. Murthi Anishetty of the Plant Production and Protection Division (AGPS), and Mr. R.B. Singh of the Research and Technology Development Division (AGRR), also attended, part time.

The Panel unanimously elected Mr. Fernando Patiño Valera of Mexico Chairman, and Dr. Bjerne Ditlevsen of Denmark Vice-Chairman. The Agenda adopted is shown in Appendix 2.

A list of Secretariat Notes discussed by the Panel, is given in Appendix 3. In addition, each Panel member made a brief presentation and submitted information on the region or sub-region covered by him or her. Observers also made brief statements. Such information usefully supplemented the information provided in the Secretariat Notes on the present state of forest genetic resources in the world, programmes, priorities and desirable action.

1 Joined, during part of the meeting, by other colleagues from the IBPGR.


1. The Panel noted the heightened international concern at policy making, scientific, technical and popular levels over the conservation of environmental values and over the need to safeguard the biological diversity on Earth. These concerns had culminated in the deliberations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992, in which the conservation of biological diversity had been at the centre of attention. The UNCED Conference strongly underlined the complementarity of conservation and development and the need to carefully manage existing renewable natural resources to maximize their contribution to development today, while at the same time safeguarding their continued existence for use and further development by coming generations. Participating Governments in the UNCED Conference agreed upon mechanisms for action and follow-up, notably a number of global conventions (including the Convention on Biological Diversity) and “Agenda 21”, which constituted the operational platform, until the year 2000 and beyond, of the international community in all major areas related to the environment and sustainable development.

2. The Panel underlined that re-focussed priority setting over the past years at national, regional and international levels had greatly augmented global needs for information, technical guidance and field level action in the domain of forest genetic resources. Needs for support and technical assistance were further increased by the stress laid by developing countries on local capacity building and on technology transfer, and by the urgent need to assist countries in the development of national strategies which ensured close linkages between conservation and management of forest genetic resources on the one hand, and the management of forests for productive and protective purposes on the other.

3. The Panel was gratified to note that conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and genetic resources for food and agriculture had been afforded high priority in the Director-General's Programme of Work and Budget for the biennium 1994/95. It noted that the majority of the world's wild plant and animal genetic resources and wild relatives of crop species were housed in forests, woodlands and other natural ecosystems which were generally under the jurisdiction of national Forestry Departments. Within FAO, support to the management and conservation of these resources fell primarily under the technical competence and responsibility of its Forestry Department. In this regard, the Panel requested that, in allocating resources within the Organization and within the Forestry Department, due recognition be given to the substantial and continuously increasing responsibilities in the multiple, diverse and fundamentally important tasks gathered together under the common denomination of “forest genetic resources”. The Panel further recommended that efforts be made to bolster the actual impact of FAO's forest genetic resources activities through continued and strengthened collaboration with other international and bilateral organizations such as e.g. Unesco, CSIRO (Australia), the DANIDA Forest Seed Centre and CIRAD-Forêt (France); and with CGIAR Centres dealing with forestry research (CIFOR, ICRAF, IBPGR). Adequate “twinning” between FAO's field programme and Regular Programme activities, could also help strengthen forest genetic resources programmes and their impacts at national, regional and global levels.

4. The Panel welcomed the strengthened inter-Departmental collaboration in FAO in the fields of plant and animal genetic resources and biological diversity, and stressed that strengthened coordination and increased collaboration within the Organization as well as between FAO and other organizations were necessary to avoid wasteful duplication of efforts and to ensure complementarity of action. It noted the increasing number of institutions and organizations, at international level, involved in forest genetic resources work and closely related fields and the large amount of new global initiatives, which posed a potential problem of dispersion of scarce resources. In view of its inter-governmental role, global mandate, cross-sectoral expertise and long experience in the field of forest genetic resources, the Panel considered that FAO was in a good position to continue to help coordinate international action and therefore requested FAO to continue to provide a focal point for the harmonization of international programmes and projects and for dissemination of information and knowhow in forest genetic resources.

5. The Panel recognized the compliance of the Secretariat with the recommendations made at its Seventh Session, within the limits of available resources. It requested FAO to strike an equal balance in attention and support to arid and humid zones on the one hand; and conservation and other genetic resources activities on the other. It recommended that multipurpose species of importance to local communities continue to play a predominant role in FAO's forest genetic resources activities without, however, totally neglecting wood producing species of importance to local economies in the tropics; these latter species were biologically little known, frequently over-utilized and often inadequately managed. It was recommended that reference be made, in this regard, to the priority lists elaborated by the Panel (see Appendixes 6 and 7).

6. The Panel recognized the important role of in situ conservation of forest genetic resources as a dynamic strategy which could be harmonized with both productive and protective forest management, and with the management of national parks and other protected areas; these latter ones were frequently zoned, and the effects of varying intensities of intervention could be monitored in these zones. In this regard, the Panel recommended that FAO Forestry Paper No 107, which outlined principles and concepts of in situ conservation of forest genetic resources in sustainable forest management, be complemented by a guide or guides on methodologies and practices. Due attention should be given in such practical guides to the potential and possibilities of “Extractive Reserves” and the harvesting of both wood and non-wood forest products carried out in harmony with genetic principles, and to methods for the short, medium and long-term monitoring of the effects of forest management interventions on the genetic resources of species under use. The possibilities for collaboration in this undertaking with the forestry-related Centres of the CGIAR should be investigated. The Panel further recommended that documentation on methods and practices be complemented by pilot studies in in situ conservation, carried out in collaboration with national institutes in both the humid and the dry tropics.

7. The Panel recognized that, to succeed, in situ conservation had to be based on sound land use plans and the implementation of such plans in harmony with prevailing national and local needs. Related scientific issues in need of clarification, which the Panel requested FAO to pay due attention to, included the effects of deforestation and forest degradation on forest genetic resources and biological diversity; the genetic effects in forestry of landscape fragmentation; the management of vegetation mosaics; and genetic effects of ecosystem-based conservation activities.

8. The Panel noted that in situ and ex situ conservation strategies were complementary and that conservation was, in turn, an integral part of soundly based breeding strategies. It recognized the validity of action underway in Europe in follow-up to the Strasbourg Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (December 1990), which involved the development of species-specific, regional networks in which both in situ and ex situ conservation were given due attention, and in which conservation action was, in turn, closely related to breeding and sustained use of the genetic resources of target species as well as to the sustained management of the forests in general. It requested FAO, in collaboration with IBPGR, to closely monitor, document and disseminate information on experiences for possible use in other regions and for other forest species.

9. The Panel noted that its earlier recommendation related to a review of ex situ conservation stands established in collaboration with FAO and some other international actors such as the DANIDA Forest Tree Seed Centre (DFSC) in the 1970s and 1980s, was still outstanding due to a lack of resources. Such a review was urgently needed to complement recent FAO documents on in situ conservation (including i.a. Forestry Paper No 107); and the study of ex situ conservation as seed, pollen and in in vitro cultures published by FAO in 1993 in response to a recommendation of the 7th Session of the Panel (Forestry Paper No113). The Panel recommended that FAO and the DFSC, in close collaboration with countries concerned, join forces to review and document experiences from existing ex situ conservation stands.

10. The Panel reviewed past and on-going cooperation between FAO and national institutions in the exploration, collection and exchange of provenance seedlots for research and conservation purposes. It acknowledged the value of this work in making available well-documented reproductive materials to interested countries on mutually agreed terms, and underlined the benefits of this collaboration in the promotion of collaboration between developing country institutes and in the enhancement of local capacities and interest in forest genetic resources work. It recommended that similar collaboration be continued in the future, and that action be focussed on priority species identified by the Panel in Appendix 6.

11. The Panel recommended that FAO continue to disseminate information on documentation and certification of forest tree seed, and that it help institutes in developing countries in the elaboration and application of national seed certification schemes. The employment of globally acknowledged, international schemes (such as the OECD Scheme for Forest Reproductive Materials Moving in International Trade) as “models” should be encouraged, with a view to facilitating later harmonization of common schemes among countries interested in the same species.

12. The Panel noted the increasing international concern regarding exchange of, and access to, plant genetic resources (including forest genetic resources). It recommended that efforts be made to facilitate the continued exchange of research seedlots of forest tree species and provenances among countries with similar ecological conditions and socio-economic needs, which had proved of considerable, mutual benefit over the past decades. It further recommended that the International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer, approved by the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources in April 1993, be used to guide agreements made between countries in this regard, in the spirit of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

13. The Panel took note of recent advances in biotechnologies applicable to forestry. It stressed that biotechnologies were tools in conventional tree breeding strategies rather than alternatives to them, and recommended that FAO continue to monitor and disseminate information on proven conventional and new technologies and their potential. In this regard, the Panel stressed the potential role of FAO in efforts to help bridge the increasing gap between scientists and practical tree breeders, aimed at ensuring adequate priority setting in research as well as timely application of research results into practice. FAO was, further, requested to help strengthen inter-institutional collaboration in research in forest genetic resources and related disciplines through support to twinning and networking arrangements, and through the promotion of technical collaboration between developing countries (TCDC).

14. The Panel complimented the Secretariat for its achievements in the dissemination of information in all aspects of genetic conservation. In addition to continuing the production of well-focussed technical level documents, the Panel recommended that FAO prepare “popular versions” of documents published on topical subjects, for use by extension workers, NGOs and the general public, and/or promote the use of technical FAO documents as the basis for locally adapted texts.

15. The Panel commended FAO for the quality and usefulness of the annual newsletter, “Forest Genetic Resources Information” which it considered a unique and valuable vehicle for timely and up-to-date information on forest genetic resources activities and priorities at global level, on availability of forest reproductive materials and on early research results. The newsletter, further, facilitated contacts between scientists, and provided materials for use in training. The Panel warmly recommended that publication of this document be continued.

16. The Panel stressed the important role of FAO in capacity building, institutional strengthening and in training in both basic disciplines, such as plant taxonomy; and applied ones, such as seed collection and handling. It recommended that the Organization continue to support and to inform potential users of international, bilateral and national training activities related to various aspects of the conservation and use of forest genetic resources.

17. The Panel highlighted the need to help foster an integrated approach to education, training, research and extension, and the need to develop innovative approaches aimed at involving local populations in all aspects of resource conservation and its sustainable use. The Panel also noted that FAO, through its network of contacts, could potentially play an important role in helping national and regional/sub-regional organizations and institutions to locate experts in specific fields of expertise needed for in-country training within the framework of national conservation and training programmes.

18. The Panel noted that ethical considerations were often stressed in today's popular as well as policy-level discussion on conservation of biological diversity and genetic resources, and that foresters frequently lacked necessary insight in this field. The Panel recommended that collaboration between professional groups covering aspects of production, protection, conservation and ethics be promoted in order to help establish adequate philosophical foundations for the development of balanced conservation policies.

19. The Panel noted that the next, Ninth Session of the Panel was scheduled for 1995. It requested the Secretariat to review possibilities for linking the Gene Panel meeting with other, scheduled international meetings, which abounded in the international agenda.

20. In closing, the members of the Panel expressed appreciation for the chance given to them to meet and discuss technical and scientific issues related to forest genetic resources, and agreed to further intensify their activities within the framework of the Panel, individually as well as collectively. Special attention would be given by each Panel member to strengthening contacts with a range of institutes within his/her own country, as well as with institutes in other countries in the region or sub-region covered by him/her. The members undertook to provide regular feedback to the FAO Secretariat and to the other members of the Panel. The Panel would, thus, serve as a continuing link in the forest genetic resources field between the Secretariat and the field, and as a timely and accurate source for information on new government policies and programmes affecting technical and scientific work both at the national and the international level.

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