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Helping developing countries make better use of biotechnology tools
New FAO publication on agricultural genetic resources
3 July 2006, Rome - Developing countries should be enabled to fully exploit biotechnology tools, when appropriate, in order to stop the decline of agricultural biodiversity and to use their wealth of genetic resources in a sustainable way, according to FAO.

Many of these agricultural genetic resources are endangered for reasons such as overexploitation, replacement of local crops and livestock with foreign species or breeds and habitat change and destruction.

The need to conserve genetic resources for food and agriculture is essential and was recently highlighted at the first meeting of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Madrid, 12 – 16 June 2006).

Crop, forest, animal and fish genetic resources represent an insurance against future changes in production and climatic conditions or in market needs. They are also a source of material for scientific research as well as a cultural and historical part of mankind's heritage, FAO says.

Edited by John Ruane and Andrea Sonnino of FAO’s Working Group on Biotechnology, a new publication on the role of biotechnology in exploring and protecting agricultural genetic resources attempts to shed light on the potential role and importance that biotechnology tools, in particular the use of molecular markers, may have for agricultural genetic resources in developing countries.

Numerous new and old biotechnologies provide a broad collection of tools that can be applied for a range of different purposes (genetic improvement; disease diagnosis, vaccine development, etc.). They include molecular markers, cryopreservation and reproductive technologies that can be used directly for the characterization and/or conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Characterization of genetic resources goes hand in hand with their conservation since it is fundamental both for understanding what is being conserved and for choosing the genetic resources that should be conserved, the FAO publication says.

Human capacity

“The ability to apply these biotechnologies in developing countries is currently limited by the lack of sufficient funds, human capacity and adequate infrastructure,” according to the publication.

The capacities of developing countries can be strengthened through greater collaboration among research institutions in different developing countries and also between industrialized and developing countries.

The FAO and the centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) as well as other organizations and NGOs could help to coordinate these collaborative efforts and support capacity-building activities.

Contact:
Pierre Antonios
Information Officer, FAO
pierre.antonios@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53473
(+39) 348 25 23807

Contact:

Pierre Antonios
Information Officer, FAO
pierre.antonios@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53473
(+39) 348 252 3807

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Helping developing countries make better use of biotechnology tools
New FAO publication on agricultural genetic resources
3 July 2006 - Developing countries should be enabled to fully exploit biotechnology tools. A new FAO publication explains why and how.
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