The FAO international technical conference on "Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries: Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change" (ABDC-10)

took place in Guadalajara, Mexico from 1 to 4 March 2010. A major objective of the Conference was to take stock of the application of biotechnologies across the different food and agricultural sectors in developing countries, in order to learn from the past and to identify options for the future to face the challenges of food insecurity, climate change and natural resource degradation.

Read 'Biotechnologies for Agricultural Development', the Conference proceedings. The 592-page proceedings are organized in two main sections. The first contains ten chapters with an extensive series of FAO background documents prepared before ABDC-10 took place. They focus on the current status and options for biotechnologies in developing countries in crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture and food processing/safety, as well as on related policy issues and options, in particular about targeting agricultural biotechnologies to the poor; enabling research and development (R&D) for agricultural biotechnologies; and ensuring access to the benefits of R&D. The second section contains five chapters dedicated to the outcomes of ABDC-10, namely the reports from 27 parallel sessions of sectoral, cross-sectoral and regional interest, most of which were organized by different intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and regional fora; keynote presentations; and the conference report adopted by delegates in Guadalajara on the final day of ABDC-10.

ABDC-10 was hosted by the Government of Mexico and co-sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the World Bank were major partners in this initiative.

The Conference was dedicated to “agricultural biotechnologies”, a term covering a broad range of biotechnologies used in food and agriculture for a variety of different purposes such as the improvement of plant varieties and animal populations to increase their yields or efficiency; characterization and conservation of genetic resources; plant or animal disease diagnosis; vaccine development; and improvement of feeds and the safety of foods. The Conference was cross-sectoral, covering crops, livestock, forestry, agro-industry and fisheries and aquaculture.

For the first three days, the Conference Programme consisted of plenary sessions in the morning followed by parallel sessions (that were sector-specific, regional or dealing with cross-cutting issues) in the afternoon. The fourth day consisted of plenary sessions only.

The Conference brought together about 300 policy-makers, scientists and representatives of intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations from 68 countries, including governmental delegations nominated by 42 FAO Member States. Plenary sessions during the four days were dedicated to issues such as how to target agricultural biotechnologies to the poor; how to enable research and development (R&D) in agricultural biotechnologies; and how to ensure that the benefits of R&D are accessible in developing countries. There were also plenary presentations from IFAD, the CGIAR and the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture about relevant aspects of their work.

The entire Conference was web cast for the four days. An FAO Press Story was released on 1 March to coincide with the opening of the conference, and a second FAO Press Story was released on 4 March to coincide with its closing.

Both the build-up and organization of the Conference were hallmarked by a strong spirit of partnership and collaboration. An international Steering Committee was established in 2008, chaired by Professor M.S. Swaminathan from India. The Committee included individuals invited on their own personal capacity, as well as those representing relevant stakeholder groups, including UN and non-UN intergovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, and private sector organizations. Members of the Committee played an important role, inter alia, by providing inputs on an extensive series of FAO Technical Documents prepared for the conference.

A key feature of ABDC-10 was the involvement of a broad range of different stakeholders, including several intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and regional fora, which organized/supported parallel sessions that were sector-specific, regional or of cross-sectoral interest. These included the CGIAR, ICGEB, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Oxfam International, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), the Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA), the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Technical Cooperation Network on Plant Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean (REDBIO). For each session, a Summary Report was prepared and all of these, as well as presentations made, are available on the webpage dedicated to these 27 Parallel Sessions.

During the Conference, 22 different organizations, including international and national research institutions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, also participated in the 'Knowledge Share Fair' (read its report) to promote good knowledge sharing practices in the field of agricultural biotechnologies.

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