European focus on animal ‘gene pool’ management

The European Commission has published a comprehensive report outlining its aims for the period until 2020 regarding the future management of the genetic resources available to Europe’s farming sectors.

The document is entitled ‘Genetic Resources – From Conservation to Better Use’. While issues of conservation and halting biodiversity loss in agriculture remain a central element, the report highlights the need for a change of rationale with greater emphasis on an increased sustainable use of our genetic resources such as traditional or endangered breeds of animals or plants. The report is accompanied by a second document, reporting on existing programmes, as required by the end of 2013 under the current regulation.

Commenting on the commission report, EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş said: “It is very important that actions on genetic resources go beyond conservation. Genetic material offers huge resources not only in terms of economic benefits, but also to help address the challenges we face such as climate change, plant resistance to pests, productivity, diverse consumer demands, and economic development in rural areas. We must value as much as possible the diversity of genetic materials at our disposal.

“This change of approach is reflected in the broadening of the tools supporting efforts to better use genetic resources, so that by 2020 greater financial resources and a wider range of funding opportunities are available. From 2014, several EU policy instruments and tools will be put together in a coherent and complementary way to support this aim, both under the Common Agricultural Policy’s rural development measures and under the EU Research and Innovation Framework ‘Horizon 2020’, opening the door for further opportunities for investment, collaboration and the exchange of best practices.”

He continued: “Rural development provides for a wide range of actions, including the rearing and use of traditional endangered local breeds of farm animals, plants and seeds. Rural development measures can also help to integrate the sustainable use of agricultural genetic resources into the food chain, bringing more added-value for rural areas and the agri-food sector, as markets and products become more diverse.

“In order to widen the knowledge base on the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources, these issues will be integrated into a comprehensive work programme established under ‘Horizon 2020’.

According to the Commissioner, making the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources a success requires actions taken at all levels – EU, member state and regional – as well as a strong commitment by relevant stakeholders.

He concluded: “These joint efforts will provide a considerable contribution to enhancing sustainability and economic viability across different agricultural systems and in the whole food chain, as well as a fundamental contribution to preserving biodiversity, and fighting climate change.”

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