PanAfrica: Helping Developing Countries Make Better Use of Biotechnology Tools -
- New FAO Publication On Agricultural Genetic Resources
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Rome)
Developing countries should be enabled to fully exploit biotechnology tools, when
appropriate, in order to stop the decline of agricultural biodiversity and to use their
wealth of genetic resources in a sustainable way, according to FAO.
Many of these agricultural genetic resources are endangered for reasons such as
overexploitation, replacement of local crops and livestock with foreign species or breeds
and habitat change and destruction.
The need to conserve genetic resources for food and agriculture is essential and was
recently highlighted at the first meeting of the Governing Body of the International
Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
Crop, forest, animal and fish genetic resources represent an insurance against future
changes in production and climatic conditions or in market needs. They are also a source
of material for scientific research as well as a cultural and historical part of mankind's
heritage, FAO says.
Edited by John Ruane and Andrea Sonnino of FAO's Working Group on Biotechnology,
a new publication on the role of biotechnology in exploring and protecting agricultural
genetic resources attempts to shed light on the potential role and importance that
biotechnology tools, in particular the use of molecular markers, may have for agricultural
genetic resources in developing countries.
Numerous new and old biotechnologies provide a broad collection of tools that can be
applied for a range of different purposes (genetic improvement; disease diagnosis,
vaccine development, etc.). They include molecular markers, cryopreservation and
reproductive technologies that can be used directly for the characterization and/or
conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture.
Characterization of genetic resources goes hand in hand with their conservation since it is
fundamental both for understanding what is being conserved and for choosing the genetic
resources that should be conserved, the FAO publication says.
Science and Biotechnology
International Organizations and Africa
Food, Agriculture and Rural Issues
"The ability to apply these biotechnologies in developing countries is currently limited by
the lack of sufficient funds, human capacity and adequate infrastructure," according to
The capacities of developing countries can be strengthened through greater collaboration
among research institutions in different developing countries and also between
industrialized and developing countries.
The FAO and the centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR) as well as other organizations and NGOs could help to coordinate
these collaborative efforts and support capacity-building activities.