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plant genetic resources for food and agriculture - FAO

plant genetic resources for food and agriculture - FAO

THE CONTRIBUTION OF

THE CONTRIBUTION OF PGRFA TO FOOD SECURITY AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT 8.1 Introduction Over recent decades, agriculture has undergone enormous changes as a result of both technological advances and changing human needs and desires. On the one hand, yields per unit area have increased dramatically through a combination of improved crop varieties and a greater use of external inputs. 1 On the other hand, there has been increasing pressure on land for uses other than the production of food, as well as growing concerns about the sustainability and safety of some modern practices. In spite of advances in food production, food insecurity and malnutrition are still widespread. The latest FAO figures indicate that in 2009 there were around 1 billion chronically hungry people in the world, an increase of about 200 million since the World Food Summit in 1996. It is estimated that the number of hungry people increased by over 100 million due to the food price crisis of 2007-2008 alone. Most of the worst affected people (about 75 percent) live in rural areas of developing countries and depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for a large part of their livelihoods. A 70 percent increase in world agricultural production over today’s levels will be required to meet the food demands of the estimated 9.2 billion people in 2050. A major share of this productivity increase will have to come from the use of PGRFA to produce higher yielding, more nutritious, more stable and more eco-efficient crop varieties. In 2000, the United Nations Millennium Declaration was adopted, committing nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets, with a deadline of 2015, that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) (see Box 8.1). All countries and all of the world’s leading development institutions have agreed to these goals, two of which, in particular, will require the conservation and use of PGRFA if they are to be reached: the eradication of poverty and hunger and the achievement of environmental sustainability. The aim of this chapter is to discuss the role and contribution of PGRFA to food security, sustainable agriculture, economic development and poverty alleviation. The chapter will not review or interpret Box 8.1 The Millennium Development Goals 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. 2. Achieve universal primary education. 3. Promote gender equality and empower women. 4. Reduce child mortality. 5. Improve maternal health. 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. 7. Ensure environment sustainability. 8. Develop a global partnership for development. these four concepts or their inherent complexity and interlinkages. Instead, it will look at the role of PGRFA in the context of some of the emerging and difficult challenges now facing agriculture. Unlike the other seven chapters, this one does not have a counterpart in the first SoW report and so there is no baseline upon which to build. It thus aims to provide an overall review of the current status of PGRFA in relation to sustainable agriculture, food security and economic development, concludes with a summary of some of the main changes that have occurred in recent years and identifies some of the key gaps and needs for the future. 8.2 Sustainable agriculture development and PGRFA Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 and the subsequent World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, ‘sustainable development’ has grown from being a concept focusing mainly on environmental concerns, to a widely recognized framework that attempts to balance economic, social, environmental and intergenerational concerns in decision-making and action at all levels. 2 Within the context of overall sustainable development, agricultural systems are extremely important. There are, however, many concerns about the nonsustainability of many agricultural practices, for example: the overuse or misuse of agrochemicals, 183

CHAPTER 8 water, fossil fuels and other inputs; the shifting of production to more marginal land and encroachment into forested areas; and the increased use of monocropping, more uniform varieties and a reduced use of crop rotations. MEA 3 undertaken between 2001 and 2005 reported that about 60 percent of the ecosystems studied were being degraded or used unsustainably, while the demands of a continually expanding human population, climate change and increasing demand for biofuels are all putting new additional pressure on land. The wise use of agricultural biodiversity in general and PGRFA in particular, offers a way forward on many of these inter-related issues. The following sections look at two aspects: the role of genetic diversity in sustainable agriculture and the role of PGRFA in the provision of ecosystem services. 8.2.1 Genetic diversity for sustainable agriculture PGR are a strategic resource and lie at the heart of sustainable agriculture. The link between genetic diversity and sustainability has two main dimensions: firstly the deployment of different crops and varieties and the use of genetically heterogeneous varieties and populations, can be adopted as a mechanism to reduce risk and increase overall production stability; and secondly, genetic diversity is the basis for breeding new crop varieties to meet a variety of challenges. A large number of the country reports expressed concern about the increasing use of genetically uniform varieties and the trend for them to be grown on ever larger areas, resulting in increased genetic vulnerability (see Section 1.3). Many called for a greater use of genetic diversity to counter this. The deployment of diversity at the farm and field level helps provide a buffer against the spread of new pests and diseases and the vagaries of weather. In the case of pests and diseases, for example, while some individual component might be susceptible, there is a strong possibility that other components will be partially or totally resistant or tolerant. In such situations, the resistant or tolerant component can produce some yield, thus avoiding total crop failure, and in many circumstances such genetic diversity can also significantly slow the overall rate of spread of a disease or pest. Thus, production 184 THE SECOND REPORT ON THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S PGRFA strategies that include the deployment of diversity are likely to be more stable overall than monocultures of uniform varieties, they reduce the risk of crop failure and require fewer pesticides. There is also evidence that in cases where heterogeneous varieties are able to exploit a given environment more efficiently and effectively, this can even result in higher yields. The development and production of appropriate crop varieties provides one of the best mechanisms for addressing many of the most important agricultural challenges related to sustainability. Varieties that are pest and disease resistant require fewer fungicide and insecticide applications; varieties that compete better with weeds require less herbicide; varieties that use water more efficiently can produce higher yields with less water; and varieties that use nitrogen more efficiently require less nitrogenous fertilizer, with a concomitant saving in fossil fuel. While varieties having many of these characteristics already exist, the situation is far from static. Agricultural environments change as do farming systems; new pests and diseases arise and the demand for specific products is constantly shifting. The result is that there is a continual need for new varieties. A variety that performs well in one location may not do so in another and a variety that produces a good yield this year may be knocked out by a new pest next year. In order to be able to continually adapt agriculture to ever changing conditions, plant breeders need to develop and maintain a pipeline of new varieties. Genetic diversity underpins the whole process of producing new varieties; it is the reservoir that enables breeders to maintain a full pipeline. The country reports cite several examples of the use of PGRFA to improve pest and disease resistance. In Pakistan, for example, two million cotton bales were lost from 1991 to 1993 due to a crop failure caused by Cotton Leaf Curl Virus. Resistant cotton types were subsequently identified and were used to develop new virus resistant cotton varieties adapted to the growing conditions in Pakistan. 4 Morocco was able to release the first Hessian fly resistant durum wheat varieties, derived from interspecific crosses with wild relatives. 5 There are countless such examples and all depend on the existence of PGRFA and the ability of plant breeders to access and use it. While genetic diversity represents a ‘treasure chest’ of potentially valuable traits, as

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    The Second Report on THE STATE OF T

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    118 CHAPTER 4 16 Op cit. Endnote 8.

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    STATUS BY COUNTRY OF NATIONAL LEGIS

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    STATUS BY COUNTRY OF NATIONAL LEGIS

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    Appendix 4 State of diversity of ma

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    APPENDIX 4 some country reports. 6

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    APPENDIX 4 Role of crop in sustaina

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    appendiX 4 Ex situ conservation sta

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    APPENDIX 4 Documentation, character

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    APPENDIX 4 FIGURE A4.5 Global yield

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    338 APPENDIX 4 are also conserved.

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    340 APPENDIX 4 WebPDF/Crop percent2

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    BAAFS Beijing Academy of Agricultur

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    CN Centre Néerlandais (Côte d’I

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    DTRUFC División of Tropical Resear

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    HRIGRU Horticultural Research Inter

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    INIA CARI Centro Regional de Invest

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    IVM Institute of Grape and Wine «M

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    NISM National Information Sharing M

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    REHOVOT Department of Field and Veg

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    SRI Sugar Crop Research Institute,

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    WCMC World Conservation Monitoring

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