NSP - Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources_copy

Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Plants are the primary basis for human sustenance, used directly for food, clothing and shelter, or indirectly in processed form and through animal feeding. Our crop plants have been raised over millennia, through evolutionary forces and human selection, from their wild ancestors.  The genetic diversity – the variation in the molecular building blocks that control expression of individual traits – is at the core of a crop’s ability to continually undergo these changes. The combination of current and historical genetic diversity underpins our potential to adapt crops to the changing needs of farmers and consumers.

FAO strongly supports the sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. In the broadest sense, this encompasses the whole range of actions involved in the conservation, diversification, adaptation, improvement and delivery to farmers through seed systems. Plant breeding acts as bridge between the conservation in genebanks and the seed systems that deliver improved varieties to farmers.

Sustainable use of PGRFA takes into account the wider principles of ecologically, economically and socially sound approaches. These principles address the challenges of meeting basic food needs, generating income for the rural poor, and providing a foundation for protecting the environment. It can involve different technical solutions and actions, such as intensification of production; plant breeding; characterization, evaluation and number of core collections; genetic enhancement and base-broadening; diversification of crop production and broader diversity in crops; development and commercialization of under­ utilized crops and species; supporting seed production and distribution; and developing new markets for local varieties and "diversity­ rich'' products. Sustainable use of PGRFA also includes the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of PGRFA and agrobiodiversity management through appropriate strategies and participatory involvement of stakeholders.

FAO focuses on the promotion of:


Appropriate policies and strategies at the national, regional and international levels, essential to create an enabling environment for the development of sectors responsible for sustainable use, including plant breeding and seed sectors;


Capacity building in plant breeding and the seed sector, particularly in developing countries, mainly through support to education and training, and institutional support;


Exchange of technologies, know-how, plant genetic resources and knowledge among all stakeholders involved.

In 2006, the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) was launched with the mission of enhancing the capacity of developing countries to imporve crops through better plant breeding and delivery systems. This initiative is contributing to a more comprehensive implementation of the International Treaty on PGRFA and the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of PGRFA, as well as the Global Crop Diversity Trust.