Agrobiodiversity: functions and threats under global change D 3.4 85 tems can contribute towards agriculture being shaped in as environmentally sound and sustainable a manner as possible. D 18.104.22.168 Research needs Identifying the functions of agrobiodiversity External inputs in agriculture are sometimes in substitutional relationships to biodiversity services. Starting from the idea that we can best guarantee the protection of agrobiodiversity by its sustainable use, the following primary research needs arise: • Identifying the potential and actual contribution agrobiodiversity makes to the productivity, stability and sustainability of agro-ecosystems. • The targeted contribution or use of biodiversity as ‘means of production’ requires urgent examination. This area includes development of methods for identifying the ecological services provided by agrobiodiversity and identifying the economic value of agrobiodiversity. Recording and characterizing agrobiodiversity Recording agrobiodiversity on farm must be tackled and promoted worldwide. As a priority, domestic plants and animals at the variety and species levels as well as microorganisms, particularly soil dwellers, should be considered. In particular, the crops that do not feature in the ‘Top 30’ should also be included (Section D 3.4.2). The systematic investigation and evaluation ofthe stocks of genetic resources in ex-situ collections is also of fundamental importance and requires support. Important specific issues are: • Examination of genetic diversity on the basis of molecular and morphological markers is often based on less than 100 gene loci (out of an average of approx 10,000–100,000 genes in higher organisms). It is necessary to examine the genetic variation in the loci that control the agronomically important features. • For the conservation and use of diversity within the particularly richly subdivided crop species it is absolutely necessary for the classic morphological-systematic systems to be further developed. Optimizing conservation strategies The Global Plan of Action (GPA) adopted at the 4th International Technical Conference ofthe FAO in Leipzig in 1996 gives in-situ conservation of agrobiodiversity priority over ex-situ measures. However, the development of optimum conservation strategies must take place in a species-specific way and requires that a number of different factors be considered.The following should be addressed as priorities: • Investigation ofthe suitability and reliability of insitu approaches for the preservation of genetic diversity under various ecological conditions must press ahead. • Investigation of costs and benefits of various conservation approaches with due regard for the fact that agrobiodiversity, at least partially, has the character of a public asset. It should also comprise analysis ofthe distribution of costs and benefits, both geographically and within society. Three individual questions in the area of ‘Optimizing conservation strategies’ should receive priority treatment: 1. The development of efficient transfer mechanisms to finance conservation and to share the benefits arising from the use of agro-genetic resources. 2. Establishment of practical, affordable reproduction methods. 3. Ascertaining necessary population sizes in ex-situand in-situ conservation approaches in order to avoid genetic drift wherever possible. Analysing social, economic and political parameters The agricultural sector is very highly regulated in most national economies. At the international level, too, there are already certain sets of rules that touch on the conservation and use of agrobiodiversity. The primary focus should be placed on: • Investigations of social and economic factors that influence the way relevant actors make use of agrobiodiversity. • Analysis ofthe (national and international) existing parameters for the conservation and use of agrobiodiversity andthe long-term consequences resulting from that use. Important sub-areas are: • The impact ofthe life sciences industries on agrobiodiversity. Can the breeding of ‘minor crops’ be assured for the future? • The question ofthe extent to which different systems for the protection of intellectual property have an impact on the availability of genetic resources. • Do the international rules (primarily the Convention on Biological Diversity andthe IUPGR ofthe FAO; Section I 3) guarantee effective protection of agrobiodiversity? How could they be improved?
86 D The use of genetic and species diversity D 22.214.171.124 Action Sustainable use of agrobiodiversity as a primary policy goal Agrobiodiversity is immensely important for the nutritional security of future generations and for the sustainability and stability ofthe Earth’s agroecosystems, as well as providing the basic material for innovations in breeding and biotechnology. This must find an appropriate expression by conservation and sustainable use becoming a priority goal in all relevant areas of policy (Section I 1.2).The active use of agrobiodiversity as a first option must stand at the forefront of preservation and be applied in the most diverse agrarian production possible. Particular attention should be placed on the reliable, sustainable funding of usage and conservation strategies. Time delays or interruptions can lead to irreversible losses if, for example, necessary regeneration measures cannot be implemented and accessions lose their ability to germinate, or if ecosystems that provide the habitat for rare agrobiodiversity components are destroyed. This irreversibility in the case of loss distinguishes biological diversity fundamentally from most other environmental problems and must be given due consideration in the context of any measures adopted. Early warning systems, such as CGRFA (Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture) hopes to introduce for plant genetic resources, are particularly important in this respect. The services of, as well as the major threat to, diversity in the agrarian systems ofthe Earth must form a central aspect of practical and academic training courses. In the academic context, there is a particular need for high-quality training in taxonomy, agro-ecology and genetics. of priority the collections in the diversity centres ofthe various species should be completed. Drawing up a red data book for endangered plant cultivars as a basis for the creation of appropriate conservation measures and funding ofthe same should be aimed at. Preserving endangered domestic animal species and breeds must form a further focus of efforts towards preserving agrobiodiversity. Since in many cases in-situ- and on-farm conservation are the only means of preventing the total loss of certain components of agrobiodiversity, these measures must be supported. On the basis oftheir decentralized distribution, of course, political will in making this happen is crucial. In many cases, it is merely necessary not to disturb the locally organized in-situand on-farm conservation and use of agrobiodiversity. In the past this often happened through restrictive provisions governing the seed market or onesided agricultural extension focussing on ‘modernization’. In the context ofthe utilization of agrobiodiversity, financing the secondary evaluation of genetic resources or characterization of currently used agrobiodiversity is crucial. In particular, the investigation of resistances and specific quality features must be considered. In order to add valuable genes from genetic resources to elite material and expand its genetic basis, alongside basic evaluation work there is also a need for comprehensive, publicly funded pre-breeding (where possible in association with a gene bank). Preserving agrobiodiversity Worldwide the preservation of a considerable portion of ex-situ collections is considered at risk.Thus, a priority task is to safeguard and provide financial support to existing collections. In particular, regular regeneration measures must be made possible. Collections that have been built up by various non-governmental organizations (eg community gene banks in developing countries, NGO collections in industrialized and developing countries) should be included in this support; these include gene banks like the ones at the CGIAR research centres (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). For reasons of efficiency and cooperation, the collections should be coordinated into one global network. Existing collections must be augmented in accordance with the precautionary principle. By way