Boosting genetic resources cooperation in the International Year of Biodiversity

The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity.  According to the UN, the event is “a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives.”  The inauguration of the International Year of Biodiversity will take place in Berlin, in a high-level event sponsored by the German Presidency. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen and high-ranking guests will launch the International Year of Biodiversity at an opening ceremony today, Monday 11th, 2010.

However, Emile Frison, the Director General of Bioversity International, warns that “there is much more to biodiversity than whales and panda bears.”  According to him, any discussion of biodiversity conservation needs to consider that the diversity of crops and livestock is absolutely fundamental to human survival and well-being.  “Agricultural biodiversity is not only vital for nutrition, it is also indispensable in meeting the challenges of climate change and in lifting poor people out of poverty. For too long, conservationists have tended to view farmers and farming as the enemy. While in many cases that may be true, the International Year of Biodiversity offers a great opportunity to work towards more productive food systems based on biodiversity and a more ecological approach to agriculture.”

“Increased productivity so far has been based on simplifying farming systems,” Frison noted. “We need to move beyond that to intensification without simplification, and that requires us to research, understand and make better use of agricultural biodiversity.”

Bioversity research has shown how neglected and under-utilized species can deliver better nutrition and health, at the same time protecting the environment and increasing incomes. It is also pinpointing the impact of predicted changes in climate on crops and suggesting new sources of material that will help farmers adapt to new weather patterns.

Agrobiodiversity is a priority to Labex Korea.  New conformations, changes and advances in the process of technological innovation have renewed the interest in genetic resources research and justify the choice of this R&D area in the implementation process of Labex Korea. The emerging bioeconomy, the expected risks and challenges associated with global climate change and the increasing pressures for development of sustainable agricultural production systems point to the need to streamline the process of enrichment, conservation, characterization, value addition and use of plant, animal and microbial genetic resources.

Adequately studied and better known, many biological functions stored in germplasm collections, in non-domesticated species and in biodiversity resources not yet collected or described, may be gradually incorporated into species of importance to agriculture and bioindustry. Traits and values not yet important to conventional breeding programs, such as those related to environmental services, dynamics of carbon, as well a biological functions in the confluence with the food, pharmaceutical, chemical, health and energy industries will, certainly, increase the interest in genetic resources, as well as in innovative processes to mobilize and use genetic variability in a sustainable way. 

South Korea and Brazil can collaborate substantially in these areas, considering the emphasis of their institutions at the intersections of agrobiodiversity with biotechnology, advanced animal reproduction and information technology. These experiences extend the range of opportunities for cooperation in the frontier of knowledge, as well as opportunities for improvement of concepts, methods, infrastructure, capacities and managerial skills to promote technological innovation based on sustainable use of genetic variability.

The vision of Labex Korea is to create opportunities for the research teams of both, Embrapa and RDA, boost their ability to use genetic variability as means of overcoming challenges and seeking new opportunities for agriculture, agribusiness and bioindustries of both countries.

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