INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES TO MEET AT LEIPZIG FROM 17 TO 23 JUNE

FAO/3635
13 June 1996

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES TO MEET AT LEIPZIG FROM 17 TO 23 JUNE

13 June 1996


Press Release
FAO/3635


INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES TO MEET AT LEIPZIG FROM 17 TO 23 JUNE

19960613 ROME, 10 June (FAO) -- Delegates from more than 150 countries and some 50 non-governmental organizations will meet in Leipzig, Germany, at the International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, to be held from 17 to 23 June. The Conference is expected to ratify a declaration and global plan of action for the better conservation and use of plant genetic resources important for food and agriculture. The meeting is being organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and hosted by the German Government.

In its first report on the "State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources", FAO warns of a large-scale loss of plant genetic resources and the erosion of biodiversity. The spread of modern, commercial agriculture and the introduction of new varieties of crops are the main causes of the loss of genetic diversity, FAO says.

A total of 157 countries, as well as international organizations such as the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, non-governmental organizations, scientists and farmer's organizations participated in preparing the first ever Global Plan of Action. The Plan proposes policies and strategies for better management of plant genetic resources at regional, national and global levels, combining traditional knowledge and modern technologies. It will help countries to strengthen national capabilities for utilizing plant genetic resources, plant breeding and seed production. It will also help them to restore adapted, native crop varieties lost as a result of natural disasters and civil strife.

Only 30 crops, such as wheat, rice, maize millet and potatoes, provide the major share of world's food. However, there is great diversity within such species. That genetic diversity is essential to improving agricultural productivity and sustainability. Crop varieties being lost may contain genes that could be used to improve resistance to pests, diseases and drought.

The Leipzig Conference is expected to provide valuable input to the World Food Summit by heads of State and government, to be held in Rome from 13 to 17 November. The FAO has called on the Summit to address the world's food problem and begin a concerted campaign to ensure food for all. An estimated 800 million people are still chronically undernourished, and

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200 million children under the age of five suffer from protein and energy deficiencies. Ensuring the conservation and sustainable utilization of agricultural biodiversity is a key component of the effort to build food security.

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