Main goals Diverseeds

Peace and the welfare of human society depend fundamentally on a sufficient, balanced and secure supply of food. Of the 7000 plant species used world-wide in food and agriculture, only 30 crops “feed the world”. These are the crops that provide 95% of global plant-derived energy-intake (calories) and proteins. Wheat, rice and maize alone provide more than half of the global dietary energy. A further six crops or commodities – sorghum, millet, potato, sweet potato, soybean and sugar (cane/beet) – bring the total to 75% of the global energy intake. Taking into account the importance of relatively few crops for global food security, it is particularly important that the diversity within these major crops is conserved effectively, available for use and managed wisely.
The most important sources of plant genetic resources can be found in the centres of origin and diversity of crops (so called Vavilov centres), and most of these centres are located in developing countries. We are convinced that it is absolutely necessary to link researchers from different world regions that otherwise do have little or no resources to exchange their research results, discuss problems, find joint solutions to prevent genetic erosion, and stimulate knowledge and technology transfer. Within the European Union some information exchange networks (e.g. ECP/GR, EUCARPIA, PGR-Forum) already exist, however, communication between Europe and developing countries e.g. Asia can be improved. Our project is aimed to open the European networks to Asian research colleagues working in centres of origin, to establish a communication platform, and to promote knowledge exchange on genetic resources.
Another important aim of Diverseeds will be to assist in the implementation of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources and contribute to overcome its gaps. The most significant and overriding synergy between the objectives of our project and the FAO Treaty falls under Article 6 (Sustainable use of plant genetic resources). However, the Treaty fails somehow to be realistic in terms of the implementation of its proposed measures. Through our project it will be possible to address the measures, and by way of interaction with partners from Asia we will determine realistic ways forward. The following tentative list of issues shows which aspects of genetic resources and its management will be important for our European and Asian colleagues:

 

  • Supporting an integrated gene management: conservation and management actions for varieties, landraces and crop wild relatives, including collections (e.g. gene banks, on-farm conservation).
  • Integration of traditional farmer knowledge (indigenous knowledge) in centers of origin and the participatory development of farmer incentive into the strategies of conservation and use of plant genetic resources.
  • Networking, Capacity building and technical assistance through knowledge transfer from European PGR networks to our Asian partners.
  • Structuring and providing information on managing local crop diversity and provide useful and comprehensive (paperbound and audiovisual) material for broader dissemination.

The main objective of this project then is to jointly elaborate a list of recommendations and strategies to improve the sustainable use of plant genetic resources, especially in centers of origin. These recommendations will be disseminated to researchers, but also to policy makers, farmers and the general public.