FAO adopts new global framework halting plant genetic erosion

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has adopted a new global framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the diversity of plants on which food and agriculture depend.

According to a statement December 1, 2011, the FAO said it’s governing council approved the “Second Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,” which represents a renewed international commitment to ensuring effective management of plant diversity as a key element in fighting poverty and achieving increased  food security in the face of climate change.

The UN agency said plant diversity is threatened by “genetic erosion”, a term coined by scientists for the loss of individual genes or combinations of genes, such as those found in locally adapted landraces.

Citing its State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture One, FAO noted that the main causes of genetic erosion is the replacement of local varieties by modern varieties. It adds that other causes include environmental degradation, urbanization and land clearing through deforestation and bush fires.

“Through the Second Global Plan of Action, the world community confirms its commitment to halting genetic erosion and preserving the wealth of plant genetic resources’’ said Linda Collette, Secretary of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The main focus of the Second Global Plan of Action, the FAO said  is to strengthen conservation and sustainable use of plants and seed systems, and the crucial linkages between them, through a combination of appropriate policies, use of scientific information, farmers’ knowledge and action.

The action plan therefore, urged all countries to better manage crop diversity in farmers’ fields; develop strategies to protect, collect and conserve crops, wild relatives and wild food plants that are under threat, support use of a wider range of traits for plant breeding and strengthen seed systems especially of locally adapted varieties.

The Plan also calls on the donor community to boost national and international efforts to strengthen institutions and capacities to address these globally agreed priorities, the statement said.

The original Global Plan of Action was adopted through the Leipzig Declaration in 1996.

By Ekow Quandzie

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