Crop, forest and animal genetic resources networks join forces


Genetic resources underpin production in agriculture and forestry; they are essential for long-term food security, supply of non-food products and adaptation to changing climate. Still, their potential remains largely unharnessed.

A new project, called GenRes Bridge, aims to strengthen the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources by bringing three networks together: European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR), responsible for crops, European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN) for forests and European Regional Focal Point for Animal Genetic Resources (ERFP) for animals. The project started on 1 January 2019 and the partners gathered to discuss how to achieve the main goals at a kickoff meeting in Rome from 15 to 17 January 2019.

GenRes Bridge will enable participants in the three networks to share perspectives, exchange good practices, harmonise standards and collaborate on training and the use of other resources. The aim is to accelerate collaborative efforts and develop capacities across the three domains.

The most important expected outcome is an integrated strategy for genetic resources in Europe. The process of developing the strategy will engage a wide variety of stakeholders and extend the geographical scope of the networks to neighbouring countries, including those of the whole Mediterranean Basin.

 

“This integrated strategy will be fundamentally important for Europe,” said Michele Bozzano of EUFORGEN, who coordinates the GenRes Bridge project. “We have to ensure that all countries participate in developing the strategy. We need an urgent action, because we are losing genetic diversity every day and once it is lost, it is lost forever. Policy buy-in will be crucial, since conservation of genetic diversity is a long-term commitment: more than the time span of this project, more than any of us will live for”.

Bringing the three domains of crops, forests and livestock together means that the range of stakeholders will be equally broad, from farmers and foresters through genebank and national park managers to chefs and, of course, people who eat food and use forest products.

“One of the things we will discuss at the kickoff meeting will be how to ensure that all actors have a voice and how we will share our deliberations with the wider community,” said Michele Bozzano.

The GenRes Bridge consortium consists of 17 partners, selected through a broad consultation, who represent existing European structures for genetic resources. All are committed to support the long-term implementation of the integrated GenRes strategy and its recommendations.

GenRes Bridge project is coordinated by the European Forest Institute and was funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020 scheme. You can find more information on the call here.

 

Photo: Finnhorse breed of horse. Credit: ERFP

First published on EUFORGEN website.