Conservation and promotion of the use of genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well as for the purpose of breeding, are vital to a) ensure global food security, b) advance sustainable production, facilitate adaptation to climate change and new pests and diseases, and c) promote rural development.
Thus, the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 emphasises a sustainable management of genetic resources, including an action to conserve Europe’s agricultural genetic diversity. This is done by encouraging the uptake of agri-environmental measures for the conservation of genetic diversity.
Furthermore, the evaluation of the second Community programme on genetic resources in agriculture underlined the need for further action to enhance conservation of genetic diversity within agriculture, and to promote sustainable use of traditional varieties and breeds so as to make conservation economically viable.
Following an initiative tabled by the European Parliament, the European Commission (DG Agriculture and Rural Development) contracted two “Preparatory action on EU plant and animal genetic resources in agriculture”. The projects were launched in July 2014 for a period of five years.
Preparatory Action I (July 2014 – December 2016)
The objective of the first preparatory action was to support the EU in recognising the potentials for added value in the field of conservation and sustainable use of agricultural genetic resources. In particular, the project has:
- identified, described, and analysed activities undertaken in the EU Member States regarding the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural and forest genetic resources; and
- identified missing links, and actions to be addressed in future actions regarding the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources in agriculture and forestry. This analysis may contribute to developing a strategy for the conservation of genetic diversity in the EU.
The study covered the 28 EU Member States, and the following domains:
- Plant genetic resources;
- Animal genetic resources;
- Forest genetic resources;
- Microbial & invertebrate genetic resources.
Preparatory Action II (January 2016 – December 2018)
The preparatory action is intended to provide (different categories of) stakeholders with concrete examples to valorise the use of neglected breeds and varieties in an economically viable way. Therefore, this preparatory action should enhance the willingness of stakeholders to invest in neglected agricultural genetic resources in both plant and animal domains and to provide success stories and valuable tools.to secure optimal investment.
The preparatory action builds on past experience and present circumstances. It takes into account the lessons learned from comparable projects under relevant policies, especially but not limited to those under agriculture, regional, research and innovation policy.
These concrete examples are delivered in twofold manner:
- Through the implementation of four projects
- The compilation of a compendium of projects.
These activities led to the development of a user guide for the valorisation of neglected breeds and varieties within the agro-food supply chain for stakeholders and the deployment of a communication campaign. including the production of a video clip, a conference to present the results of the preparatory action, and other additional communication tools.