These lectures commemorate the late Frank L. McDougall, who played a leading role in the foundation of FAO and the initiation of its activities. I now ask the Director-General to introduce this year's McDougall lecture. Since we have had the privilege of listening to the McDougall Memorial Lectures delivered by luminaries who have enlightened and inspired us with their thoughts and vision. Following these traditions, we are privileged today to have with us a great personality from the world of science and academia who is also well known in the field of international development cooperation.
Professor Mugnozza, the Italian scientist, researcher and academician of international repute, now holds the position of Rector of Tuscia University in Viterbo, Italy, and serves as the President of the Italian Academy of Sciences and heads the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding. He is a fellow of numerous national and international, academic, scientific and research organizations and centres of excellence. I am very pleased to say that I have had the opportunity of knowing Professor Mugnozza personally for a long time.
In fact, I recall an event 10 years back when I had the privilege of being with him at the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of FAO organized by Professor Mugnozza at Tuscia University. At this time Professor Mugnozza is assisting the Organization as a member of the panel for the Special Programme of Food Production in support of food security in the low-income food-deficit countries.
Professor Mugnozza has distinguished himself in scientific and research work in the areas of plant breeding, mainly in cereals and applied mutogenesis in plant genetics and biodiversity. I would like to mention in this connection that his research group has succeeded in releasing some high-yielding durum wheat varieties. Professor Mugnozza has also been very active in the field of international cooperation with developing countries through participation in research projects and programmes for human capital formation in the international centres of the CGIAR system, as well as through national institutions and universities.
He also served as an adviser on the Special Governmental Committee of Italy, in cooperation with the universities of the developing world, which was led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This Committee, where he most effectively represented the Italian universities, succeeded in developing important cooperation programmes with universities in all the developing regions of the world. The varied work and experience of Professor Mugnozza in a life dedicated to scientific pursuits and development efforts, directed at the betterment of human life on earth, can provide an inspiration to our struggle against hunger and malnutrition and our commitment to achieve food security for all.
The title of my lecture is "Protection of biodiversity and conservation and use of genetic resources for food and agriculture: potential and perspectives". I will introduce the subject and its problems by saying that the loss of biodiversity is often presented as an ecological problem, but the underlying fundamental causes are socio-economic and political. Population growth and the increasing consumption of resources, the effects of the global trading system, ignorance about species and ecosystems, poorly conceived policy and failure to account for the value of biodiversity are key factors of the continuing degradation and destruction of biological diversity.
It is a vital challenge for our societies that the precious value of nature's diversity be properly reflected in the world economy, including national assets, market exchanges, rules and regulations. Currently, the basic genetic raw material, with which breeders and biotechnology industries work, is essentially available free of charge from the nature of farmers' fields. The cost of conserving biodiversity is high, but far less than the cost of the dreadful effects of its degradation.
Genetic resources are part of biological diversity. They are natural resources indispensable for present and future generations; indispensable, in a global vision, for the preservation of the environment and the continuation of life, all forms of life, on the earth. Human responsibility towards the earth, in all its ethical, philosophical, religious, anthropological, cultural and legal implications, has to be fulfilled in a holistic effort, with sustainable action of protection and conservation of biodiversity and, in general, of the natural resources.
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Thus, the tremendous potentiality and the delicate equilibrium of the natural resources are founded and safeguarded only to the extent to which human beings acknowledge that nature is for their advantage and benefit, but it is governed by forces well beyond human control. Fortunately, the awareness and consciousness that man must consider himself the caretaker of nature are increasing and prevailing.
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Consequently, it is our moral responsibility, and not only in our material interest and convenience, to adopt measures to protect and conserve and properly utilize biodiversity and, in its domain, the genetic resources for agriculture. The size of biological diversity known up to now, that is the number of species of plants, fungi, algae, protozoa and bacteria, viruses, animals and fishes, moluscs, insects, etc.
The estimated total number of species living on the planet goes from the prudential figure of 12 million species to a maximum of about million species, mainly insects, approximately million of insect species. As far as plants are concerned, more than two-thirds of the world's plant species originate from the regions surrounding the mountain chains stretching from the Pyrennees to the Alps, Caucasus, Himalaya and in South America, around the Andean chain. It is estimated that out of the botanical species at least 70 edible plants exists. In the course of history, however, man has utilized as a source of food only about 7 of those species.
Moreover, only a very modest number of plant and animal species play a significant role in the present world agriculture and food production. In fact, the world depends for the majority of its food on only seven cereals: wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, barley, rye and oats. Similarly, merely seven legumes: peas, beans, soybeans, cowpea, peanuts, alfalfa and clover, are intensively exploited, and as few as four tropical fruits banana, mango, pineapple, papaya and three tuber or root crops potato, yam and cassava are produced on a large scale.
By selecting and developing over 10 years of agriculture the basic food and agricultural crops, humanity effectively created the portfolio of agrobiodiversity which feeds us today. However, the planting of ever increasing surfaces with a small number of homogeneous varieties in recent years has led to the loss of much of this inherited capital in farmers' fields. By replacing a multitude of local strains, eco-types, land races, each particularly adapted to a usually confined habitat and niche, he has paradoxically condemned to irremediable loss much of the genetic resources of these plants and animals in a process defined as "genetic erosion".
As a result, the genetic variability of those species has been dangerously narrowed. But "less variability" means "less biological plasticity", insufficient ability to respond to selection and impossibility to guarantee improvements in quantity and quality. Such kind of genetic erosion has been particularly frequent and vast in basic crops species as maize, rice, wheat, banana, cowpea, cassava and plantain. In the animal kingdom, biodiversity of domesticated animals includes approximately 4 breeds.
Of these, percent are at high risk of loss. But in Europe the threat is even more serious. It is estimated that as many as half of the breeds which existed there at the beginning of this century have become extinct. As much as for plants, the diversity of domesticated animals is greatest in the developing countries.
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Such diversity ensures adequate adaptation to changes in environment, upsurges of diseases, variations in market conditions and future and unpredictable social needs. Research is discovering news ways to use biological material. According to recent estimates, plant resources could come to account in the near future for more than one third of all industrial material with great environmental and social benefits. Similarly, man has just begun to explore the immense wealth of species living in the equatorial forests for pharmaceutical puroposes.
A few of them have been utilized from time immemorial by traditional methods. For others, therapeutical capacities have been discovered only in recent times. But the potential for further discovery is really immense. Man's interest in the collection and description of biological diversity present in different ecosystems and in the exploitation of various new characters goes back in time and has resulted in the establishment and creation of botanical gardens, zoological parks and acquaria. Vavilov's discovery during the twenties of the centres of origin and diversification of crop plants and related wild species led to a multiplication of exploratory and germplasm-collecting missions in those regions mainly organized by the most agriculturally developed countries.
Particularly from the second half of this centry bio-samples, mainly seeds, have been gathered in the so-called gene banks: storage facilities where ex situ collections can be conserved for a long time, classified, analysed and used in reading programmes. Today many countries have established their own gene bank.
The most significant ones, however, are held by the International Agricultural Research Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and by about twenty national institutions of developed and developing countries. Nevertheless, no individuial country, whether developed or developing, has within its borders or in its gene banks all the genetic resources necessary to meet its needs. All countries must continue to search for new germplasm sources, not only through explorations and collections, but also and may be mainly by exchanging germplasm of mutual interest with other countries.
According to FAO's studies, the number of accessions so far stored in the gene-bank system is estimated to amount to about The International Centres' Gene banks in particular, globally considered, represent what is probably the world's largest ex situ collection of genetic resources of food and fodder crops of importance to developing countries' agriculture, conserving about 12 percent accessions of all germplasm maintained at present worldwide.
The genetic resources kept in these ex situ collections have been intensively, if not widely, utilized in the last decades in the frame of vast and successful breeding programmes of the most important crops. The impressive results of the so-called Green Revolution, resting basically upon wheat, rice and maize breeding programmes, are evidence of the importance of having at one's disposal the widest possible genetic variability both in plants and animals of agricultural interest. However, while the gene banks will have a precise role to play also in the future, the biological evolution, the continuous creation of biodiversity, cannot take place in stored material.
It can only become reality in nature, in the dynamics of a continuous contact and interaction with other living forms in the ecosystems or, for crop plants, in the agro-ecosystems. The need for allowing such processes has prompted an increasing engagement in in situ programmes of biodiversity conservation. The Convention on Biodiversity held in Rio de Janeiro in , in its Article 8 promoting the in situ conservation, explicitly recalls the opportunity for the signatory parties to " Outside gene parks and protected areas, in situ conservation is often carried out at farm level where land races and locally improved material are grown, utilized and conserved as a component of traditional farming systems, and evolve in response also to their dynamics.
In situ conservation, according to the same Convention on Biodiversity, shall also aim to " It may be concluded that the in situ or, under specific conditions, on-farm conservation and cultivation of crop and agro-forestry species may exert a significant role not only in the effective maintenance of agrobiodiversity but also as a component of sustainable development programmes, as also recognized by the Agenda Therefore, measures should be taken, as the establishment of a multilateral agreed funding mechanism, to promote, encourage and implement them.
It has become increasingly evident that the value of genetic resources and of biodiversity at large can be incremented by biotechnology. The development and use of biotechnology procedures permitting the transfer of sequences of DNA from one species to another, and even from one biological kingdom to another from animals, fish or micro-organisms to plants , has raised the economic value and increased the potential of much biological diversity as a resource in breeding and research.
The incorporation in crop plants of genes for biological nitrogen fixation; resistance to pests and diseases; new and more efficient agents of biological pest control; quantity and quality of animal and plant products; adaptation of crop plants and livestock to diverse ecological conditions heat, cold, water excesses, drought will increase stability, eco-compatibility and sustainability of agricultural production and could reduce the pressure on land exploitation and the need for new arable land, thus contributing towards biodiversity conservation itself as well as forestry maintenance.
Moreover, biotechnologies have been developed and largely adopted first by advanced countries. This is likely to further increase the gap between the rich and the poor, at least temporarily. Therefore, it is time now that developing countries need to be involved in the responsible development and use of appropriate biotechnologies to meet their own needs.
So far, many of these countries, however, lack the resources for such developments. Also by virtue of these scientific and technical achievements, the long-time effort and series of remarkable initiatives of the FAO, as for instance the constitution of a Panel of Experts on plant exploration and introduction in ; the convening of three International Conferences in , and ; the establishment of the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources in ; the establishment of the Commission for Plant Genetic Resources in , a permanent intergovernmental forum; the adoption in of the International Undertaking for Plant Genetic Resources; and since then the development of the FAO Global System for Plant Genetic Resources, have received an international worldwide recognition.
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In the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June the Agenda 21 was adopted and opened to signature the Convention on Biodiversity, signed so far by more than countries and ratified by as many as It must be underlined that Resolution 3 of the Conference for the adoption of the Convention on Biodiversity, as well as Agenda 21, specifically recognizes the importance of genetic resources for food and agriculture, and requests the strengthening of the FAO Global System for Plant Genetic Resources. Together they will provide guidelines for future action. The negotiation of a revision of the International Undertaking in harmony with Article 15 on the Convention on Biodiversity, including the realization of farmers' rights and the regulation of access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
The Convention says: "Recognizing the sovereign rights of the States over their natural resources, the authority to determine access to genetic resources rests with the national governments and is subject to national legislation"; and "Each contracting party shall endeavour to create conditions to facilitate access to genetic resources for environmentally sound users by other contracting parties and not to impose restrictions that run counter to the objectives of this Convention".
A further initiative by FAO would imply a further development of the international network of the ex situ connections, considering that the Convention on Biological Diversity itself does not regulate the juridical status of those such collections which were assembled prior to the Convention.
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With a high sense of responsibility, the International Centres concluded in October an agreement with FAO which brought the collections under the auspices of FAO itself. In force of the agreement, the International Centres agree not to take out intellectual property protection on the materials and to ensure that the recipients of samples are bound to the same obligation.
However, as far as ex situ conservation is concerned, much uncertainty remains as for future status and accessibility of the germplasm collected before the coming into force of the Convention on Biodiversity, and conserved now in a multitude of other germ banks different from those of the international centres. Allow me now to express some personal proposals: it is extremely urgent that a timely agreement under the terms of the Convention on Biological Diversity be reached between all germplasm holders worldwide, in order to regulate the status and access and availability by scientists and farmers of genetic resources conserved at present or to be conserved in the future.
I also support the creation, as already proposed, of a funding mechanism which would contribute to the implementation of the farmers' rights as adopted by resolutions of this Conference in and , following a proposal of the FAO Commission - a funding mechanism which could in general also promote conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources.
Developed countries, parties in the agreement, would contribute financially to the funding mechanism in addition to making their own plant genetic resources available. This Agenda 21 also requested the realization of the farmers' rights, that is an obligation to compensate farmers for their past, present and future contribution in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources, particularly those in the centres of origin and diversity.
This principle aims at reconciling the view of the technology-rich and the gene-rich countries in order to ensure the availability of plant genetic resources within an equitable system. The concept of farmers' rights also provides a sort of balance to intellectual property rights, breeders' rights and patents intended to reward innovations, as derived from advanced research and resource investment in industrialized countries. What appears to some A hopeful spring for democracy Quickly becomes An angry summer of populism. And dangerous, rogue states Seek nuclear weapons.
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Of course, These global changes Sometimes present Global opportunities. The world is probably A freer and more democratic place Today Than at any point In my lifetime. Yet, paradoxically, Rarely has the future Of the free and democratic world Been less secure. As I said, Some new powers Are neither sure friends Nor implacable foes. Other countries, however, Constitute unambiguously A clear and present danger And thus demand A very sober assessment. First among these Is the Government of Iran. We are also mindful Of the lesson of history: That those who single out The Jewish people As a target of racial and religious bigotry Will inevitably be A threat to all of us.
Indeed, Those who so target Israel today Are, by their own words and deeds, Also a threat to all Free and democratic societies. Our Government simply contends That the international community Must do more To further pressure And isolate This regime. Ladies and gentlemen, Let me conclude with this. We should never consider others evil Merely because They disagree with us Or because They compete with us. But where evil dominates, You will invariably find Irreconcilable disagreement With the ideals That animate Canada, America And like-minded nations. The ideals which assert that All people possess Human dignity And should be accorded Equal rights.
First, We shall choose our friends well. And our true friends Are those who To their core, Both respect The will of their majority, And the rights of their minorities.
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And we shall not sacrifice Our guiding principles In the interests Of some transient advantage. Finally, We shall strive To manage our own house - Our economy And our finances - In such a way that Our own freedom of action Is not compromised. Ils exigent de nos pays une forte vigilance et une bonne gouvernance.