Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fish

This report summarises the thirteenth email conference of the FAO Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture, held between 6 June and 4 July 2005. Of the 127 postings to the conference, 67 per cent came from participants living in developing countries. People working in research organisations and universities comprised most of the participants; the rest were employees of inter-government institutes, non-governmental organisations, national development agencies and private companies.

The conference focused on the biotechnology tools being introduced and used in the crop, forestry, fishery and livestock sectors in developing countries. A topic heavily debated in the forum was the use of molecular markers in the characterisation of genetic resources, as was the need to use these tools alongside other factors, such as morphology and agronomic performance. In vitro techniques such as tissue culture, cryo-preservation and DNA storage were also discussed.

Factors that limit the ability of developing countries to apply these tools – such as lack of funds, human capacity and adequate infrastructure – were identified. Better collaboration, aimed at reducing costs and sharing talent, was highlighted as a way forward, with international organisations such as CGIAR and FAO seen as key to coordinating such efforts and supporting capacity building.