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Agrobiodiversity is essential for coping with climate change

By Johannes Kotschi


Agricultural biodiversity and climate change are rarely discussed in the same context. However, there are close mutual links. Biodiversity is reduced through climate change and – at the same time – is a strategic resource for coping with its consequences: The entirety of plants, animals and microorganisms in agricultural ecosystems and their genetic diversity represent the re-source base for food. \ud With genetic resources gaining a new quality, present conservation approaches have to be re-vised. Instead of ex-situ conservation in gene banks a broader concept has to be envisaged which emphasises farmer conservation and is complemented by gene banks. The reason is twofold:\ud As future needs are unknown, a maximum of genetic resources has to be conserved at the lowest possible public cost. On-farm conservation is not necessarily less costly, but the costs are mainly borne by farmers while it produces both private and public benefits;\ud Secondly, adaptation of genetic resources to environmental change is necessary, a process that requires exposure to the environment, instead of being stored deep-frozen in a gene bank. \ud Civil society organisations have taken a front-runner position in developing and spreading suit-able concepts at grassroots level. They have catalysed worldwide a boom of farmer initiatives that practise organic agriculture based on maintaining biodiversity, avoiding the use of hybrid seeds and prohibiting transgenic crops. Secondly, they are increasingly supporting local seed conservation initiatives that aim to empower local communities to protect their biodiversity and defend their community rights to seeds and knowledge. Thirdly, they have founded an alterna-tive market for plant breeding and seed production. Mainly in Europe, various initiatives have emerged that maintain, improve and make available open-pollinating varieties of cereals and vegetables, many of which are the result of crossbreeding and selection over centuries and in danger of being lost. \ud All such activities make very clear: genetic resources must remain largely in the public domain with well-balanced benefit-sharing concepts among the various stakeholders that use and con-serve agro-genetic resources. \ud \ud Reference\ud Kotschi, J (2007): Agricultural Biodiversity is Essential for Adapting to Climate Change. GAIA 16/2, 92-101.\ud \ud Further Reading\ud Agrobiodiversity and climate change – a complex relationship. Issue Papers “People, Food and Biodiversity”, GTZ. Eschborn.\u

Topics: Food security, food quality and human health, Breeding, genetics and propagation, Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Year: 2008
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Provided by: Organic Eprints

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