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New Book on International Regimes and the Management of Crop Genetic Resources

Plant genetic diversity is crucial to the breeding of food crops and is therefore a central precondition for food security. Diverse genetic resources provide the genetic traits required to deal with crop pests and diseases, as well as changing climate conditions.

It is also essential for the millions of people worldwide who depend on traditional small-scale farming for their livelihoods. As such, plant genetic diversity is an indispensable factor in the fight against poverty.

However, the diversity of domesticated plant varieties is disappearing at an alarming rate while the interest in the commercial use of genetic resources has increased in line with bio-technologies, followed by demands for intellectual property rights. The ensuing struggle over genetic resources has given rise to several international agreements.

A new book by FNI Senior Research Fellow Regine Andersen provides the first comprehensive analysis of how the international agreements pertaining to crop genetic resources affect the management of these vital resources for food security and poverty eradication in developing countries.

The book analyses the international regimes and their interaction, traces the driving forces across scales and the effects in developing countries. Finally, it identifies entry points to shape a better governance of agrobiodiversity.

A key conclusion is that the interaction between the various regimes has had largely negative effects for the management of crop genetic diversity in developing countries - despite other intentions behind the individual agreements. The result of these developments is an emerging anti-commons tragedy: A situation where multiple actors have the possibilities to exclude each other from the use of plant genetic resources in agriculture.

Not only is this a threat to the conservation and sustainable use of these resources, but it may also seriously affect food security and the outlook for combating poverty in the world. With the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which was adopted in 2001, the international community has an instrument with the potential to change this negative trend. Whether that will happen, however, depends crucially on the political will of the contracting parties to the Treaty.

'It is my sincere hope that this book can contribute to the efforts already underway, aimed at breaking out of the vicious circle of today's management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, so that we may ensure the continued maintenance of these resources so vital to food security and poverty eradication. I also hope it will advance our understanding of how international regimes can better be employed as instruments for strengthening global governance in environmental issues,' says Regine Andersen.

Claes Lykke Ragner | alfa
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