CABI’s expertise shared at FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

22 July 2023, Africa: CABI’s expertise in the role that Digital Sequence Information (DSI) plays in the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture has been shared at a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) event in Rome, Italy.

The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) saw David Smith CABI Emeritus Fellow present an overview of the DSI study which CABI had delivered as background information for CGRFA discussions. The study report was well received and the CGRFA recommended it be published and shared.

The CGRFA recognised the need to continue their work on DSI in collaboration with other fora, particularly the Convention on Biological Diversity and the need to contribute to capacity building to redress the imbalance in country ability to generate, analyse and use DSI.

CABI’s Dr Hariet Hinz, Global Director Invasives, and Dr Matthew Ryan, Research Lead Biological Resources, also took part in a side event about nature-based solutions for the sustainable management of invasive non-native plants and which also covered CABI’s approach to access and benefit sharing under the Nagoya protocol.

The session was organized and chaired by Dr Hinz and also included her speaking with Dr Ryan and Professor Martin Hill, Director, Centre for Biological Control (CBC) and President of the International organisation for Biological Control (IOBC), South Africa.

Professor Hill spoke on ‘Assessing the benefits for biological control in Africa,’ Dr Hinz addressed ‘The safety record of weed biocontrol and recent challenges in respect to the Nagoya Protocol on ABS’ and Dr Ryan’s talk was on ‘CABI’s approach to the Nagoya Protocol and ABS.’

Principles of biological control

Specifically, the scientists spoke about the principals of biological control of invasive non-native plants (INNPs), including its safety record and effectiveness. Examples were shared of successful projects, highlighting the socio-economic and ecological benefits of biological control.

In particular, the side event was an opportunity for CABI to showcase what it is doing in biocontrol and in compliance with the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS).

Meanwhile, Professor Hill focused on successful projects in Africa to tackle water hyacinth and Azolla using biological control methods.

Biocontrol and Access and Benefit Sharing

The Nagoya Protocol was adopted in October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan and came into force in October 2014. It aims to create greater legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources by establishing more predictable conditions for access to genetic resources and helping to ensure benefit-sharing when genetic resources leave the country providing such resources.

From development of the Nagoya Protocol, CABI actively monitored it’s implications for biological control, especially classical biological control (see Cock et al. 2010), and contributed to various papers, most recently in a Special Issue in BioControl.

In addition, in 2018, CABI published its Nagoya Protocol Access and Benefit Sharing Policy online and decided to share its benefits whether the provider country is party to the Nagoya Protocol or not. This aligns with CABI’s mission to support its 49 Member Countries in helping them improve crop production and enhance their livelihoods.

CABI also introduced ABS Best Practices in its centres around the world and in most cases, works through in-country partners on funded projects, sharing project outputs.

The majority of the benefits CABI shares are of non-monetary nature and include sharing of Research and Development (R&D) results; collaboration in education, training and research; student exchange and joint authorship of publications as well as joint ownership of intellectual property rights; access to ex-situ facilities and databases; transfer of scientific information, knowledge and technology; and institutional capacity-development such as helping build or maintain local collections.

See the working 2021 paper ‘CABI UK and Nagoya Protocol triggered benefit sharing’ for more information.

CABI’s FAO-commissioned study on the role of digital sequence information in the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture, authored by Dr Ryan and Dr David Smith and Dr Alan Buddie, was also presented at the Nineteenth Regular Session of the Commission.

DSI contributes significantly

The key messages from the study included the fact that the CGRFA must contribute to the process towards a system that facilitates the generation and use of DSI to improve production and sustainability of agricultural and food products.

The research also highlights that DSI contributes significantly to the innovation and discovery in GRFA – 11% in 2022 and 15% in 2023. Importantly too, nearly 1.3 million publications contained within CAB Abstracts records cite DSI.

Dr Ryan CABI’s research lead for biological resources runs several research projects utilising genetic resources from food and agriculture.

He said, “With the pressing need to feed a growing global population more sustainably amid the pressures of climate change, the issue of genetic resources for food and agriculture could not be higher on the agenda.

“Digital sequence information really is the blueprint of life itself but particularly in respect of genetic resources which can help ensure the greater food security of the earth for years to come.

“Understanding how DSI can benefit the whole food chain moving forward is vital if we are to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint while also recognising the important role it plays in our very survival.”

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