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Conservation System for Plant Agrobiodiversity
The history of ex situ conservation is relatively short, not more than a century old. During the middle of last century, triggered by the realization that genetic erosion was threatening the existing landraces and wild relatives of the major food crops, global efforts to collect and conserve the genetic diversity of these threatened resources were initiated, predominantly orchestrated by FAO. National and international genebanks were established to store and maintain germplasm materials, conservation methodologies were created, standards developed, and coordinating efforts were put in place to ensure effective and efficient approaches and collaboration. In the spontaneously developing global conservation system, plant breeders played an important role, aiming at the availability of genetic diversity in their breeding work. Furthermore, long-term conservation and the safety of the collected materials were the other two overriding criteria that led to the emerging international network of ex situ base collections.
2. History of the Development of the Long-Term Conservation Practices and the Evolving Global Conservation System
2.1. The Role of FAO
|Year||Event||Main Outputs and (References)||Underpinning Principles (Reference)|
|Since 1920||Establishment of first genebanks||VIR, St. Petersburg (1920); Commonwealth Potato Collection, Cambridge (<2nd World War); research collections by Rockefeller Foundation, USA (1943); Fort Collins, CO, USA (1958) ||Recognition of genetic erosion in landraces by |
|1926||Publication Studies on the Origin of Cultivated Plants by N. Vavilov||Monograph in Bulletin of Applied Botany and Plant-Breeding; ||‘This monograph, dedicated to the memory of De Candolle, seems to be the most substantial contribution made since his day to the history of our main cultivated plants’ .|
|1960||Founding of IRRI||Jointly established by Government of the Philippines’ and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations ||One of the first international genebanks; focus on rice genepool.|
|1961||Technical Meeting on Plant Exploration and Introduction, FAO Rome||Report of the meeting ||Mission-driven approach: conservation and use closely linked, tied to plant breeding, dominance of ex situ collections, mainly in developed countries.|
|1965||Establishment of the FAO Panel of Experts on Plant Exploration and Introduction.||Six meetings and reports of same during period from 1967–1975 ||Formulation of criteria, standards, and procedures for the conservation and use of PGR.|
|1966||Formal establishment of CIMMYT||Joint Mexican—Ford Foundation breeding project in progress since 1943 ||Norman Borlaug awarded Nobel Peace Prize (as wheat breeder) in 1970.|
|1966||EUCARPIA meeting||Recommendation to foster continental collaboration through the establishment of four sub-regional genebanks in Europe ||First indications of establishing a (global) conservation system or network.|
|1967||FAO/IBP (first) Technical Conference on Plant Exploration, Utilization and Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources, Rome||Publication of Genetic Resources in Plants—Their Exploration and Conservation ||Need for surveys; concern about genetic erosion of landraces and wild relatives; long-term ex situ collections; guidelines for establishment of global network for ex situ long-term conservation; international collaboration; in situ conservation as a complementary strategy.|
|1969||Third Session of the FAO Panel of Experts on Plant Exploration and Introduction, Rome||Report ||Establishment of collecting priorities by crops (and later) by regions.|
|1971||Second FAO Technical Conference on crop genetic resources, Rome, Italy||Book on Crop Genetic Resources for Today and Tomorrow ||Plan of action agreed; panel of experts formulated basic criteria for conservation and use of genetic material (availability; maintaining genetic variability for the long-term; categorizing ex situ collections: base, active, and working collections.|
|1973||FAO/IBP Technical Conference on Genetic Resources, Rome, Italy||Plan of Action ||Recommendation to establish in situ collections.|
|1974||Establishment of IBPGR||Established as secretariat for its board of trustees, administered by FAO and, technically, as one of the international centres of the CGIAR ||Expected to coordinate global exploration and collecting efforts and to orchestrate a global network of genebanks.|
|1981||Third FAO, UNEP and IBPGR Technical Conference on PGR, Rome, Italy||Report ||Clear focus on routine genebank operations; in vitro and in situ (CWRs) conservation; concerns about NUS.|
|1983||22nd Session of the FAO Conference, Rome, Italy||Adoption of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources; establishment of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) and of the Global System on Plant Genetic Resources ||Shared principles; IU non-legally binding; PGRs are a common heritage of humankind; genetic stocks and breeding lines included; germplasm exchange through a network of genebanks; commission provides oversight to system.|
|1989||3rd Regular Session of Commission on GRFA, Rome, Italy||Call for the development of the International Network of Ex Situ Collections under the Auspices of FAO ||Lack of clarity regarding the legal situation of the ex situ collections.|
|1989||25th Session of the FAO Conference, Rome, Italy||Resolution 4/89: Adoption of an agreed interpretation of the IU; Resolution 5/89: Farmers’ Rights ||Plant breeders’ rights are not inconsistent with IU; recognition of Farmers’ Rights.|
|1991||26th Session of the FAO Conference, Rome, Italy||Resolution 3/91 ||Recognition of the sovereign rights of nations over their PGRFA; agreement on development of 1st State of the World’s PGRFA and Global Plan of Action on PGR.|
|1992||UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil||Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (entered into force on 29 December 1993);||Biodiversity vs. genetic resources; national sovereignty of states over their resources.|
|Chapter 14 of Agenda 21||Call for the strengthening of the FAO Global System on Plant Genetic Resources.|
|Chapter 16 of Agenda 21||Biotechnology can assist in the conservation of biological resources (e.g., ex situ techniques); risk assessment of LMOs, biosafety issues.|
|Adoption of Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act ||Recognises matters not addressed by the convention: a. access to existing ex situ collections; b. questions on Farmers’ Rights; requests FAO forum to address these matters.|
|1994||1st Extraordinary Session of the CGRFA, Rome||Start of negotiations for revision of IU; 12 centres of CGIAR sign agreement with FAO, placing their collections under the Auspices of FAO )||CGIAR centres agree to hold the designated germplasm in trust for the benefit of the international community.|
|1996||4th International Technical Conference on PGR, Leipzig, Germany||Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of PGRFA ; First Report on the State of the World’s PGRFA ||Recognition of in situ and ex situ approaches; fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of PGRFA.|
|2001||31st Session of the FAO Conference, Rome, Italy||Resolution 3/2001: adoption of the International Treaty (entered into force on 11 September 2004) ||A legally binding agreement; recognition of Farmers’ Rights (a national responsibility); access and benefit-sharing|
|2004||Establishment of the Global Crop Diversity Trust||Endowment fund, the income from which will be used to support the conservation of distinct and important crop diversity in perpetuity through existing institutions .||Coordinates the Genebank Platform (of the CGIAR operated genebanks)|
|2006||First meeting of the Governing Body of the ITPGRFA, Madrid, Spain||Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA); relationship between the Treaty and the Crop Trust; agreement between GB and CGIAR centres (Art. 15) .||SMTA is the legal instrument through which the MLS operates; recognition of the Crop Trust as an ‘essential element’ of the Treaty’s funding strategy; ex situ genebank collections of CGIAR are put under the Treaty (replacing agreement between CG centres and FAO).|
|2008||Establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault||Agreement .||Additional safety back-up for long-term ex situ collections.|
|2009||12th Regular Session of the CGRFA, Rome, Italy||Second Report on the State of the World’s PGRFA ||Report developed through a participatory approach with member countries|
|2011||143rd Session of the FAO Council, Rome, Italy||Second Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of PGRFA ||Need for a roadmap on climate change and genetic resources for food and agriculture|
The first International Technical Conference was held in 1967 in Rome and was organized by FAO and the International Biological Programme (IBP) under the title ‘Technical Conference on the Exploration, Utilization and Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources’ (Table 1) . Some of the major recommendations of the 1967 conference included the need to survey genetic resources in nature and in genebanks and the need for a stronger emphasis on conservation, efficient documentation, and the improved international coordination of PGR activities. It also generated important guidelines for the establishment of a global network for ex situ long-term conservation. It should also be noted that in situ conservation, especially of landraces, was a big issue, but it was given little to no importance compared to ex situ conservation .
In 1971, the second international conference on crop genetic resources was held in Rome, and its proceedings were published in the book Crop Genetic Resources for Today and Tomorrow, which included a plan of action (Table 1) . At this conference, the panel of experts made some major contributions with respect to global conservation plans, including the formulation of basic criteria for the conservation and the use of genetic material. These were: (i) that plant material was to be made available immediately and without restriction to all breeders requesting it and (ii) that genetic variability had to be maintained for future generations in long-term storage under conditions for maximum physical and genetic security. A third important result of the panel was a categorization of ex situ collections: base collections (for long-term conservation), active collections (for research and distribution), and working collections (usually maintained at plant breeding institutions) (for details, see . They also identified regions and crops for priority collecting . These collecting priorities were reformulated during the panel’s last meeting in 1975, with a clear shift from crops to regions .
The third international conference on crop genetic resources was held in Rome in 1981, jointly organized by FAO, UNEP, and IBPGR (Table 1) . The conference addressed most of the routine genebank operational topics, including sampling, seed storage and viability monitoring, recalcitrant seeds, in vitro conservation and the genetic stability of cultures, principles of germplasm regeneration, in situ conservation, the use of back-garden and genetic reserves for regeneration, the principles and practice of germplasm distribution and exchange, the safe and rapid transfer of plant genetic resources, including a proposal to distribute only germplasm materials completely free from plant pests and pathogens, principles of characterization and evaluation, data capturing and germplasm documentation, and under-exploited and minor crops .
The fourth technical conference was in the context of the FAO global system for the conservation and use of plant genetic resources and was held in Leipzig, Germany in 1996 (Table 1) . The major outcome of this conference was the Global Plan of Action (see below) and, in addition, ample information on the global conservation system .
2.2. The Establishment of the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR)
Support for national and regional PGR programmes, predominantly in developing countries with the establishment of conservation facilities, documentation systems, and capacity building/training .
Establishment of regional and global PGR networks with national programmes as principal stakeholders as well as regional and global crop networks, frequently with and through CGIAR centres and their leading roles in crop-specific conservation and breeding, thus trying to ensure a close link between conservation and use. The European Cooperative Program for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR), formerly the ‘European Cooperative Programme for Crop Genetic Resources Networks’—ECP/GR), was founded in 1980 on the basis of the recommendations of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Genebank Committee of the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding (EUCARPIA); its secretariat was hosted by IBPGR .
The establishment of an international network of base collections in 52 selected genebanks located in almost 40 countries across all continents for the long-term conservation of crops or crop groups, including 80 genera and approximately 250 species , and the so-called Registry of Base Collections containing a total of 144,000 accessions .
Support for an international MSc course in the conservation and use of PGR at the University of Birmingham and the organization of training courses .
Establishment of a digitalized information system for genebank documentation and germplasm management.
Initiating, coordinating, and/or conducting plant genetic resource conservation and use research and publishing the results and procedures.
More recently, the successor institutes of IBPGR (IPGRI and Bioversity International), especially after their administrative separation from FAO, played an active role in developing legal and policy proposals and acted as the CGIAR representative in international meetings and activities.
2.3. The International Undertaking (IU)
A well-coordinated international network of national, regional, and international genebanks, including the international network of base collections, would develop. The unrestricted availability of materials included in the active and base collections of such a network was assumed.
Through the progressive growth of the network, comprehensive coverage of species and regions was aspired, and an adequate safety duplication of the germplasm was involved.
The exploration, collection, conservation, maintenance, rejuvenation, evaluation, and exchange of plant genetic resources should be conducted by the genebanks in accordance with scientific standards.
Adequate funding should be provided.
A global information system should be developed.
Genebanks should give an early warning to the FAO in the case of hazards that threaten the efficient maintenance of the collection.
IBPGR is expected to liaise with FAO while conducting its programme of work aiming at building institutional and human capacity within developing countries for the development and distribution of improved crop varieties.
2.4. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
2.5. Global Plan of Action (GPA)
2.6. International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)
2.7. International Network of Ex Situ Collections
The centre shall hold the designated germplasm in trust for the benefit of the international community.
The centre shall not claim legal ownership over the designated germplasm, nor shall it seek any intellectual property rights over that germplasm or its related information.
The designated germplasm shall remain in the charge of the centre.
The FAO shall have a right of access to the premises at any time and has the right to inspect all activities performed therein.
The centre shall undertake the management and the administration of the designated germplasm in accordance with internationally accepted standards with respect to the storage, the exchange and distribution of seeds, the international genebank standards endorsed by the Commission and that all designated germplasm is duplicated.
The centre recognizes the intergovernmental authority of the Commission in setting policies for the International Network and shall undergo consultation with the FAO and its Commission on proposed policy changes related to the conservation of the germplasm.
The centre shall undertake the creation of samples of the designated germplasm and will make related information available directly to users or through the FAO for the purposes of scientific research, plant breeding, or genetic resource conservation without restriction.
The centre shall ensure that such other people or institutions and any further entity receiving samples of the designated germplasm from such a person or institution are bound by the conditions to not claim ownership over the materials or to seek any intellectual property rights over that material and, in the case of samples duplicated for safety purposes, to manage these in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
3. Description of Ex Situ Germplasm Conservation Methods and Their Strengths and Weaknesses
3.1. Short-, Medium- and Long-Term Ex Situ Storage of Orthodox Seeds
3.2. Field Genebanks
The entry is from 10.3390/plants10081557
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