by Ronnie Vernooy
Upstream and downstream, the operations of CGIAR centers face a range of policy challenges related to genetic resources. Upstream, a new research focus on developing technologies that can be taken forward by private companies requires striking a balance between providing incentives for private-sector engagement and maintaining maximum public availability for the goods that the centers develop. Downstream, greater involvement with formal and informal seed systems at the national level, to produce and distribute quality seed, depends on national level policies (and their absence) that can determine the success of these activities.
In our survey for the report Flows under stress: Availability of plant genetic resources in times of climate and policy change, we found that centers generally did not face significant challenges in getting access to proprietary technology from companies and research institutions. Instead, most difficulties arose where the centers provide technologies to private sector companies. Read more »
by Ronnie Vernooy
Genebanks appear to be at a crossroads. Thanks to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), the scene has been set for an unprecedented level of global co-operation for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. In practice, however, the situation is largely static and many actors are unwilling to assume more proactive roles.
The survey on genebank managers, Availability of plant genetic resources in times of climate and policy change, revealed that a number of priorities have been identified that linked to recent climate change. Most notably, there is increasing interest in collecting and characterizing the wild relatives of some crops, in the hope of finding useful traits of particular interest, such as tolerance to extreme heat or cold. Despite their desire to collect and characterize wild relatives, CGIAR genebank managers also report that it is becoming more difficult for most of them to access new germplasm, with the exception of materials from well-established genebanks in Europe and North America. Read more »
by Ronnie Vernooy
Bioversity International recently undertook an in-depth study of Availability of plant genetic resources in times of climate and policy change for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). This blog post is a summary of the publication.
Plant breeders within the CGIAR emphasize that they have been responding to climate-related stresses for a long time, and several are sceptical about donors and research and development organizations suddenly putting so much emphasis on climate change. Nonetheless, most can point to new breeding activities and the use of new technologies directly linked to factors such as increased drought, more extreme temperatures, more widespread flooding, higher levels of salinity and shifting patterns of pest and disease occurrence, all of which are associated with climate change. Read more »
By Jeremy Cherfas
There’s one optimistic conclusion for agriculture under climate change: modelling the future suggests that for many places, the climate they face in 20 or 30 years is already present somewhere on Earth. Farmers and plant scientists can prepare for the future by using something like the Climate Analogues Tool to suggest places to look for crops and varieties that might to some extent be pre-adapted to predicted conditions. The next problem, of course, is to access that genetic diversity.
The free movement of the genetic resources themselves and information about them is thus a crucial element in efforts to adapt agriculture to climate change.
The new study, "Flows under stress: Availability of plant genetic resources in times of climate and policy change" describe how plant genetic resources move into and out of the CGIAR system. The study was carried out for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) by researchers at Bioversity International. It further reveals the invisible flows of material and identifies some of the blockages. Read more »
At the recent FAO meeting of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), CGIAR Climate researcher Andy Jarvis stressed that exchange of genetic resources (one of the CGRFA's key concerns) will be an essential aspect of the adaptation of agriculture to climate change.
Jarvis, based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), was speaking at a special information seminar on climate change and genetic resources for food and agriculture. Read our summary of the session, including a video interview with Dr. Jarvis. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin has also produced a detailed summary.
The event was successful not only in raising participants' awareness of the important links between genetic resources, food security and climate change adaptation, but also in pushing the Commission to move ahead with a roadmap on climate change and genetic resources for food and agriculture that will guide its future work in the area. Read more »
Delegates to the 13th meeting of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), which opens formally at FAO in Rome on Monday 18 July, attended a Special Information Seminar on Climate change and genetic resources for food and agriculture: state of knowledge, risks and opportunities on Saturday.
Among the speakers was Andy Jarvis, CCAFS Theme Leader, who took the opportunity to tell the Commission that the exchange of genetic resources, one of the CGRFA's key concerns, will be an essential aspect of the adaptation of agriculture to climate change. Jarvis explained the idea of "future climates," that conditions predicted for, say, Zimbabwe in 2050 were very like conditions today in Democratic Republic Congo. So varieties and agricultural practices that do well in DRC now probably have something to offer Zimbabwe down the line. Read more »
I remember someone once stating in a presentation that there is no single silver bullet to climate change adaptation – we have to throw everything at the problem. In CCAFS Theme 1 on Adapting to Progressive Change we see that adaptation in production systems requires a hard look at reducing the yield gap and effectively managing existing knowledge about suitable practices and technologies to adapt to the future, but we also need to raise the bar by supporting crop improvement to deliver farmers with varieties that can stand up to the many challenges of the future. In DAPA and CCAFS we hope to play an important role in the development of science-based guidance on appropriate crop improvement strategies for a dynamic climate. Read more »
CCAFS Coordinating Unit - University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rolighedsvej 21, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark, phone +45 35331046; Email ccafs [at] cgiar [dot] org, EAN 5790000279012
Lead Center - International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)