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Ministers commit to review the world crop gene pool

Bali meeting sees climate benefits of genetic diversity in edible plants

11 March 2011, Bali, Indonesia - Agriculture ministers and senior officials from more than 100 countries have committed to review the global crop gene pool of the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and urged those countries who have not signed the farming biodiversity treaty to do so as soon as possible.

The ministers paved the way forward on the eve of a meeting of the Treaty's Governing Body in Bali, Indonesia on March 14-18, adopting a lengthy declaration designed to steer the Treaty's future course to face food insecurity and climate change.

The Treaty, which came into force in 2004, creates a multilateral system through which member countries share the genetic material of 64 of the most important crops for food security - crops that account for over 80 percent of our plant-sourced food.

127 countries have already signed the Treaty with more signatures in the pipeline.

More tomatoes and more benefits?

Whilst wheat, rice and potatoes are included in the Treaty's gene pool, tomatoes were excluded ten years ago during the negotiations that lead to its adoption.

"The more efficiently crops are protected under the Treaty, the better humankind will be able to conserve and share crop genetic resources to meet the enormous food security challenges of the present and future generations," said Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the Treaty.

"Indonesia is a mega-biodiverse country and has always played a lead role in the Treaty and today it did so again showing that agriculture and environment can and must go along together," said Bhatti.

Today, the Multilateral System forms a gene pool of over 1.3 million unique crop samples. The Treaty has also has a benefit sharing fund by which farmers are supported in the conservation and use of genetic diversity on their own farms.

Climate dangers

Spain, Italy and Norway and Australia are the major donors to the Benefit-sharing Fund (BSF) set up by the Treaty to support poor farmers in developing countries in adapting their traditional crops to the changing environment.

In their declaration, ministers and senior officials also recognized that climate change poses a serious risk plant genetic resources that are essential" as a raw material for crop genetic improvement -whether by means of farmer selection, classical plant breeding or modern biotechnologies-" and also "in the development of new market opportunities, and in adapting to unpredictable environmental changes."

It is expected that in the course of this meeting countries would announce new investments to extend the number of activities and conservation projects supported worldwide as well as the number of people that benefit from it.

Source: Media Centre FAO

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