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Making genetic diversity part of climate change adaptation

Staff writer ▼ | November 25, 2015
In the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, FAO has released new guidelines to assist countries in better conserving and sustainably using genetic resources in times of climate change.
APAC food production
Food production   The voluntary guidelines
The Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Integration of Genetic Diversity into National Climate Change Adaptation Planning aim at ensuring that genetic resources for food and agriculture are part of national plans addressing measures for adaptation to climate change.

Genetic resources for food and agriculture encompass the diversity of plants, animals, forests, aquatic resources, micro-organisms and invertebrates that play a role in food and agricultural production.

While these life forms are themselves threatened by climate change, their genetic makeup makes them key players in addressing the challenges such changes present.

If properly conserved and used, for example, plant genetic resources may provide seeds that can tolerate or thrive amid greater aridity, frost, flooding or soil salinity. Livestock breeds raised in harsh production environments over a long period of time tend to acquire characteristics that enable them to cope with these conditions.

Policies that anticipate future needs and plan the management of genetic resources as a pivotal reservoir and tool can help build more resilient agricultural and food production systems.

To promote more informed decision-making, FAO is, for example, developing an instrument that can be used to predict the impact of climate change on the distribution of livestock breeds.