UN food agency issues guidelines on conserving genetic resources for food, agriculture

Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-11-25 10:03:46

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released new guidelines on Tuesday to assist countries in better conserving and sustainably using genetic resources for food and agriculture in times of climate change.

"Genetic resources for food and agriculture encompass the diversity of plants, animals, forests, aquatic resources, micro-organisms and invertebrates that play a role in food and agricultural production," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.

"While these life forms are themselves threatened by climate change, their genetic makeup makes them key players in addressing future challenges," he said.

The release of "The Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Integration of Genetic Diversity into National Climate Change Adaptation Planning" came in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

They aim at ensuring that genetic resources for food and agriculture are part of national plans addressing measures for adaptation to climate change, FAO said in a statement.

Policies that anticipate future needs and plan the management of genetic resources as a pivotal reservoir and tool can help build more resilient agricultural and food production systems, it said.

To promote more informed decision-making, FAO is developing an instrument that can be used to predict the impact of climate change on the distribution of livestock breeds.

"Genetic resources for food and agriculture will have to contribute greatly to our efforts to cope with climate change," said Maria Helena Semedo, the FAO deputy director-general for natural resources.

"We need to act now to reduce the risk that the scale and speed of climate change will surpass our ability to identify, select, reproduce and -- eventually -- use these resources in the field."
There is no commonly adopted approach currently to integrating agricultural biodiversity into strategic planning for climate change adaptation.

The guidelines aim to address this gap as they will assist countries in addressing genetic resources dimensions when developing or updating their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), the FAO said.

Currently, FAO together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assists eight developing countries in the development of their NAPs.

"We need to secure and mobilize genetic resources now to have options for the future -- we need to have effective conservation, improved information and improved utilization pathways -- and we need to plan," said Irene Hoffmann, the secretary of FAO's Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

"Funding is required to support countries in this process," said Hoffman, under whose aegis the guidelines were developed.

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