No country in the world is autonomous in securing and using its plant genetic resources. International cooperation at European and global level is therefore essential to ensure and sustainably use crop diversity nationally and globally, thereby contributing to food security, sustainable agriculture and adaptation to climate change.
International cooperation takes place within the framework of the following conventions, programmes and agreements:
• Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
• Sustainable development goals of the United Nations Agenda 2030 (SDGs)
• Commission on Genetic Resources of Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) of the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
• International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)
• European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR)
• Directives of the European Union (EU)
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) includes plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in both the Aichi Bioversity Targets and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC).
The CBD's Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 includes 20 concrete, measurable and indicator-based targets, the so-called Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Target 13 explicitly addresses crops and their wild relatives: “By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.”
The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) aims to halt the rapid loss of plant diversity. Objective nine focuses specifically on crops: "70 per cent of the genetic diversity of crops including their wild relatives and other socio-economically valuable plant species conserved, while respecting, preserving and maintaining associated indigenous and local knowledge."
More about the CBD in the context of genetic resources.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
The United Nations have formulated 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in its Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
Plant genetic resources are directly addressed in Objective 2 "Zero Hunger". Point 2.5 says: “By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed”.
Commission on Genetic Resources of Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) of the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
The Commission for Genetic Resources of Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) is an important body for international cooperation in the conservation of plant genetic resources. Member states of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) discuss and decide on all aspects of genetic resources.
Since 1997, the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITWG-PGR) has supported international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.
The Reports on the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (SoWPGR) are the Commission's instrument for assessing progress in their conservation and use. The resulting needs for action are incorporated into the Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GPA).
A central decision of the CGRFA on conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing in PGRFA was the adoption of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
More about CGRFA.
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Ressources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) is an important global and internationally binding instrument. Its aim is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of crop and forage plant genetic resources and to achieve a balanced and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use. A central component of the International Treaty is the Multilateral System (MLS), which regulates facilitated access to plant genetic resources and the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use. It includes the 35 food and 29 feed crops listed in Annex 1 of the International Treaty. Germany has been a contracting party since 2004.
More about the International Treaty.
European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR)
Important activities at European level take place within the framework of the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR). The programme is based on cooperation between most European countries and aims to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in Europe.
European strategies and directives
In the European Union (EU), there are policies and strategies that address the conservation and use of plant genetic resources, such as the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the "Farm to Fork" strategy or the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The two strategies make reference to the need for diversified seed and planting material and for facilitating the use of traditional crop varieties, to reverse the decline of genetic diversity in agriculture. Measures are envisaged to facilitate the registration of seed varieties, including for organic farming, and market access for traditional and locally adapted varieties.
As part of the EU Horizon2020 project "GenRes Bridge" (2019-2021), the "Genetic Resources Strategy for Europe", for the conservation and sustainable use of plant, animal and forest genetic resources in Europe has been developed. The strategy lays out a framework as well as measures on how to achieve a necessary step-change to improve the long-term conservation and use of genetic resources in Europe and to strengthen the European and international cooperation required to achieve this. In synergy with the GenRes Bridge project, the ECPGR developed a PGR strategy for Europe. Accordingly, also the European programs for animal and forest genetic resources developed sector-specific strategies.