The CGIAR genebanks represent the most important international effort to conserve genetic resources of staple crops, forages and agroforestry species. In 1994, the international community recognized the need to protect the large and important crop diversity collections held by these genebanks and in response, the CGIAR Centres placed their collections in trust for the world community under the intergovernmental authority of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In 2006, that arrangement has been succeeded by the Centres’ signing agreements with the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), which bring the in-trust collections into the new Multilateral System. The Centres have the responsibility to ensure that the in-trust collections be maintained to the highest international standards and available to all according to the terms of the Treaty’s provisions on access and benefit-sharing.
Forest tree genetic resources are the diversity of useful trees at the level of species and populations. The term “forest trees” differentiates the trees from which the products (fruits, resins, timber, etc.) are harvested from wild populations, from the long-domesticated fruit and nut tree cultigens. There are tens of thousands of species of useful forest trees, most of them in the tropics; yet only a few dozen have been domesticated. Many are managed in wild settings; while most are simply wild-harvested.
Many of the world’s poorest billion people are dependent on fish as the major source of dietary animal protein. However, current fisheries supply cannot sustainably satisfy the demands of an exploding global population. Half of all wild fisheries are harvested to full capacity, and a quarter are over-exploited and at risk of collapsing.
Microbial biodiversity constitutes by far the most diverse yet least studied component of agricultural ecosystems, with an untapped economic potential that could and should be harnessed. Yet the capacity and infrastructure to study microbes is lacking, especially in the developing world. Microbial collections are few, disjointed, often without long-term commitments for their maintenance, and legal guidelines and policies for sharing microbial germplasm are lacking. As a result, concerted and long-term efforts to study the functionality of this important group, especially in relation to their interactions in the ecosystem, are virtually non-existent.