Seeds and Plant Genetic Resources


Seeds and Plant Genetic Resources: A basis for life

Plant genetic resources are the biological basis of food security and, directly or indirectly, support the livelihoods of every person on Earth. Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) consist of diversity of seeds and planting material of traditional varieties and modern cultivars, crop wild relatives and other wild plant species. These resources are used as food, feed for domestic animals, fibre, clothing, shelter and energy. The conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA is necessary to ensure crop production and meet growing environmental challenges and climate change. The erosion of these resources poses a severe threat to the world’s food security in the long term.

Countries are fundamentally interdependent with regards to plant genetic resources, and in particular for crop genetic resources which have been systematically developed, improved and exchanged without interruption over millennia. Food and agriculture production are dependent on genetic resources domesticated elsewhere and subsequently developed in other countries and regions. Continued access to plant genetic resources and a fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use, is therefore essential for food security.

The Seeds and Plant Genetic Resources team of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) assists Member Countries in developing effective policies and capacities for an integrated approach to conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture including seed systems, for increasing crop production and achieving food security.

Over the years we have been continuously involved in this area through concrete actions:


Building international awareness about the importance of maintaining plant genetic diversity for food security, through intergovernmental bodies, and the organisation of intergovernmental meetings;


Policy assistance and support to negotiations on international agreements and related regulatory frameworks;


Supporting capacity-building for the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources, at regional and national levels, through projects and the publication of technical standards and guidelines;


Strengthening information management and exchange through international, regional and national databases and networks, and capacity-building.


The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT-PGRFA) provides the international framework for the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security.

For a detailed description of the technical aspects and our activities, please click on the corresponding sections on the right-hand side menu.