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1998 European PGRFA Symposium:

To review progress in implementing the Leipzig GPA in Europe

Braunschweig, 30 June - 3 July 1998



Braunschweig Seed Fair

Keynote NGO paper - oral presentation

Full illustrated NGO keynote paper (400K)

Notes from On-Farm Working Group including summary of recommendations

In Situ Working Group's recommendations

NGO Statement to the Final Plenary

NGOs' acceptance to be observers on the ECP/GR Steering Committee

ECP/GR HomePage

European Commission activities on Directive 1467/94

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OBSERVATIONS by Patrick Mulvany, ITDG

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As Cary Fowler said in his closing remarks to the final Plenary, The Leipzig Global Plan of Action is alive in Europe. There are clearly areas where there can be improvement but much has been done and many new initiatives are under development.

Some observers were becoming dismissive of the outcome of the Leipzig conference, but such misgivings were mostly dispelled in this Symposium, held two years after the historic agreement was agreed in nearby Leipzig in June 1996.

Conceived 9 months' ago, this Symposium attracted nearly 200 participants from 40 countries in greater Europe, as well as observers from Israel. From Georgia to Iceland, Portugal to the Russian Federation, Finland to Malta, the great diversity of Europe was in evidence. The European Union countries were in the minority. More than 35 national Mother Tongues were represented, although, to the disadvantage of 95% of the participants, the proceedings were mainly in English (with some excellent simultaneous translation into and from Russian, for some of the sessions). There was a significant (but minority) input by NGOs to this Symposium, a positive development that strengthened its deliberations.

It was a magnificent valedictory event for Thomas Gass, Director of IPGRI's Europe Programme, architect and organiser of the Symposium, supported by his team and a 10 person Organising Committee. His energy and enthusiasm stimulated discussion and achieved a positive outcome.


The objectives of the Symposium were as follows:


The sessions were organised around the four major themes of the Leipzig GPA - in situ conservation and development, ex situ conservation, utilisation of PGRFA and institutions and capacity building. Over the 4 days of the Symposium, in plenaries, working groups, demonstrations of information systems, poster displays, all aspects of PGRFA conservation and sustainable use in Europe were discussed as well as some reference to aspects of benefit sharing with other regions.

NGOs had an opportunity to present an overview "Developing Diversity: European NGOs' PGRFA Activities" at the start of the meeting, immediately after a thought-provoking introduction by Jaap Hardon on the PGR activities by the formal sector in Europe. The NGO paper was developed in the context of:

In this context, the paper set the scene for the demands of the informal sector, the opportunities for synergy with the formal sector and a possible joint agenda. It built on the decisions of the ECP/GR European sub-regional meeting in Nitra in 1995 and progress made in the Leipzig process as well as the outcome of the European NGOs' review of the 'Year of Agricultural Biodiversity' and a subsequent informal survey of NGO activities and perceptions.

Of especial importance in the Symposium were the daylong sessions on on-farm management of PGRFA and in situ conservation of wild relatives. Both these sessions covered work in which the importance of involving the informal sector, and mechanisms for achieving this, requires more than token acknowledgement, something that in the outcome of the on-farm Working Group was fully achieved but in the other Working Group and later discussions by other Working Groups on other topics was not explicitly recognised. More work has yet to be done!

Of note was the recurring theme of the need for effective EU programmes and supportive regulation. There were also many useful discussions on the need for all European Gene Banks to have Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs), similar to those being used by the Dutch Gene Bank, that are compatible with the MTAs being developed under the aegis of the FAO-CGIAR Accord. This places all the CGIAR accessions in Trust under the FAO with a moratorium on the application of IPRs on this material or any essentially derived material by any user.

The other discussions and presentations in a very full agenda included those on sharing the responsibilities for the conservation of PGRFA; utilisation of PGRFA; increasing the use of Underutilised Crops; seed production and distribution and seed laws; legal frameworks; information systems; activities in other regions, including rehabilitation after disasters and conflict. These topics are of interest to the informal sector and the relevant papers should be widely distributed. The final report will be available on the ECP/GR website.

The final plenary had presentations from all the Working Groups and other discussion groups, and included a statement from NGOs. This statement, presented by Alan Gear, Chief Executive of HDRA, urged, among other things, the improvement of links between the formal and informal sectors across Europe.

The Symposium was rounded off by Cary Fowler, formerly FAO's Director of the ICPPGR (Leipzig) process, and speeches by the organisers. During this final plenary mention was made of the lack of sufficient progress in including the informal sector in formal sector activities, as had been agreed in Nitra in 1995 and subsequently committed to in the Leipzig GPA. From the informal sector's point of view, one of the most positive outcomes of the Symposium then occurred. The Chair of ECP/GR, in his final statement, formerly invited NGOs to be represented on the ECP/GR Steering Committee, as observers. This paves the way for more positive inclusion of NGOs and the informal sector in European PGRFA activities.

In sum, the informal sector is now recognised by the formal sector at a European level. It is now up to all actors to make the most of this in deeds as well as words: the conservation and sustainable utilisation of PGRFA in Europe will depend on this.

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Hundreds of visitors were excited by yellow pear tomatoes and strawberry spinach and the great diversity of cultivated plants at the first Seed Fair in Braunschweig held on Sunday 28 June. People from 4 countries in Europe presented cereals and vegetables that used to be common but have now disappeared from the market because of the restrictions in trade and seed laws.

The focus of the discussions was on the immense value of plant genetic diversity for food, agriculture and ecology and the increasing threat to this diversity from genetically manipulated seeds.

The Seed Fair was organised by BUKO Agrar Koordination and VEN (Association for the Conservation of the Diversity of Cultivated Plants).

VEN, Braunschweig, 28 June 1998

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KEYNOTE NGO PAPER by Patrick Mulvany, ITDG

[For full illustrated paper Click Here (400K)]

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ORAL PRESENTATION (Check against delivery)

Developing Diversity: European NGOs' PGRFA Activities

Thank you very much.


SLIDE 1 Mixed Growing Squashes


Ladies and Gentlemen, NGOs and other actors from the informal sector are key players in the joint effort in keeping and developing diversity in the gardens and farms of Europe.


SLIDE 2 Intro


I welcome this opportunity to speak to you, from a European NGO perspective, at the beginning of this most important Symposium. I am Patrick Mulvany of the UK NGO the Intermediate Technology Development Group that was set up by Fritz Schumacher (of 'small is beautiful' fame) over 30 years ago to foster the protection and development of socially and environmentally friendly technologies - not least among these is the technology of the seed - and my specialism in the ITDG and in various UK, European and International networks is in practical and policy work relating to the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity.


The positive steps you took in Nitra and subsequently in Leipzig laid the ground for our collaboration in this meeting, and we welcome this. We hope that by the end of this meeting you will have identified a number of areas in which you will want and need to work, perhaps even more actively, with the informal sector in order to ensure fulfilling your commitments to the Leipzig Global Plan of Action and the CBD's Decisions III/11 and IV/6. We might also agree how best we can work even better together to see a rapid and satisfactory conclusion to the International Undertaking negotiations and its inclusion as a Protocol to the CBD. All of this, we think is important in a context where the basis of all of our work (yours as well as ours) is potentially being undermined by the rapid and relatively unchecked spread of technologies (and the IPR systems that support them, which are undermining diversity and choice).


SLIDE 3 Tomatoes


As you well know, European NGOs have been increasingly active in work on PGRFA issues and we are interrelating and networking more than ever in order to ensure the sustainable use of PGRFA in Europe, and, most importantly in the poorer majority world of the South. This is work that we will continue, but work that could be enhanced through synergistic collaboration with yourselves. Together, we can do it even better.


SLIDE 4 Contents


In this short presentation I would like to review what European NGOs have done both before and after the Nitra and Leipzig conferences and then, in the context of the GPA's 20 activities (especially Activities 2, 3, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19 & 20), look at examples of the increased work being carried out by NGOs and the informal sector, using information resulting from an informal survey and elsewhere, on the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA, as well as on related research, advocacy and public information. I will then assess the opportunities and constraints for further work by the informal sector across the whole of Europe and present an agenda is presented, which could be developed in conjunction with yourselves.


SLIDE 5 NGO activities pre/post Leipzig


For nearly two decades there has been active involvement of NGOs at a European level. The pioneering efforts of the Seeds Action Network, lead by ICDA then GRAIN which argued successfully for an EC commitment to an agricultural biodiversity programme that would address concerns of all actors in Europe (1467/94) and helped push for PGRFA measures to be included in 2078/92. (Although we have our doubts about the effectiveness of these measures, we leave the evaluation to you later this week). The significant collaboration in the 1993 Gatersleben Symposium which, I felt, gave great impetus to in situ conservation by the informal sector in Europe in collaboration with yourselves.


The meeting in Nitra in 1995 was a step forward in its inclusivity of NGOs and we recognised the willingness of ECP/GR to work more closely with NGOs.


SLIDE 6 In Safe Hands


The Nitra meeting prepared us for Leipzig and European NGOs participated fully, ably lead by BUKO, in preparation for that historic conference. We concluded with our Leipzig Commitment to agricultural biodiversity - some 24 specific commitments to the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA and the full recognition and implementation of Farmers' Rights.


A report of our meeting [SHOW COPY] 'In Safe Hands: communities safeguard agricultural biodiversity' is available from Ursula Gröhn-Wittern of BUKO, at the back of the hall, for 10DM.


Not only Leipzig, but also the meetings of the CGRFA, the landmark COP Decision III/11 and the World Food Summit (especially Commitment 3), and the first Ministerial meeting of the WTO were held in 1996 and in February 1997 European NGOs reviewed this 'Year of Agricultural Biodiversity' in Hoisbüttel near Hamburg - a meeting that concluded with specific commitments in areas of:


SLIDE of Leipzig demo


...the latter is something that NGOs in particular can do effectively


SLIDE 7 Nitra report recommendations, para 29


In Nitra, we all recognised that NGOs had a special role to play and that their collaboration in programmes for on-farm conservation was essential to their success.


SLIDE 8 Nitra report recommendations, para 30


... and the meeting recommended that we both work towards improving the benefits of collaboration and that you identify the needs of, and opportunities for working with, NGOs and develop concrete actions particularly in the areas of training, access, coordination, information, public awareness and assessing legal constraints to collaboration.


Your achievements in all these areas is something you may wish to reflect on this week. From our perspective, there has been some progress.


SLIDE 9 Conservation and Sustainable Use


Much of the information I am presenting comes from an informal survey of organisations across Europe and I am indebted to BUKO, SAVE and the respondents in many organisations from nearly half of the European countries (more NGOs in the west and more parastatals in the east) which replied.


NGOs come in many shapes and sizes, and with a wide variation of purposes and outputs. However, although we have our specialisms, there is more that unites us than divides us on these crucial issues.


In many countries, NGOs and small private organisations provide unique access for the public to old, delisted and novel varieties. Through our organisations the public can borrow or purchase a diversity of seeds, bulk up varieties, source and exchange material and support the local ex situ conservation of varieties. It is invidious, perhaps, to highlight specific NGOs, but examples of excellent providers include, HDRA in the UK, Pro Specie Rara in Switzerland, Arche Noah in Austria and Irish Seed Savers which hosted your successful Malus meeting last year. They keep diversity alive, growing in the gardens of enthusiasts across Europe.


SLIDE 10 Maragwa Seed Show - Table of exhibits;


Many European NGOs support work in the developing world and I would like to highlight some work that ITDG is carrying out with ODI, supported by DFID in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Peru, on in situ conservation of local varieties.


One mechanism is an Annual Seed Show / Seed Fair, where, on 6 March this year, some 50 farmers from up to 5 hours walk away gathered at the Chief's camp to exhibit and celebrate the diversity of crops and varieties planted. >100 varieties of a dozen crops were shown, the winning community, GAKIA, having >40 varieties.


SLIDE 11 Discussing seeds;


It is also an opportunity to discuss the qualities of seed as well as to exchange and sell seed.


SLIDE 12 Ex situ collection by National Gene Bank


Interest in these Seed Shows is widespread and we see here a representative of the National Gene Bank discussing with the Chief the storage of these varieties in the National Collection, which, given proper recording, adequate safeguards, Prior Informed Consent, and an agreed Protocol, will provide added seed security to the community.


Another example is some work we are doing with the HDRA and the Ukabc in supporting a regional network in southern and eastern Africa to improve seed security. And there are many, many more examples including work done by NGOs in maintaining PGRFA in conflict situations.


SLIDE 13 Research


Most informal sector research is practical in its outcomes, although, with academic colleagues, we also provide good analysis of existing constraints and opportunities.


Notable, is the development of new varieties for niche markets and ecological niches, especially organic food production. We would argue that this is the necessary direction for food production in Europe and it underpins the least subsidised aspect of European agriculture - the development of sustainable organic production - an area that the informal sector dominates, by default.


We have developed methods for conservation in situ and ex situ, sustainable utilisation, and multiplication of material often with expert advice from people like yourselves. And we have innovated in our outreach methods using many media and techniques to ensure, for example, consistency of a variety.


SLIDE 14 Bagged squash flowers


On a very important aspect, we research ways of identifying, recruiting and retaining reliable seed savers, especially from younger generations.


SLIDE 15 Selection of bean seed in the field


Above all, the research is aimed at maintaining a wide range of PGRFA options at local levels. Encouraging this research is important not only in established informal sector schemes in western Europe, but in supplementing contracting public sector research in eastern Europe and in supporting emerging formal sector research in the South.


SLIDE 16 Advocacy


Perhaps, in the area of Advocacy NGOs have greater freedom of expression than yourselves. Through collaboration in this area more than any other, our common goal could best be realised.


We are all aware of the main threats and opportunities for PGRFA conservation and sustainable use and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from its enhanced use.


You may be constrained by your national and political mandates and the relatively low priority of agriculture in the economy: we are constrained by lack of resources, but I would like to believe we both would wish to see a more diverse, sustainable agriculture with plurality of suppliers, producers and retailers ensuring real variety and choice to consumers, and avoiding exploitation of people and their resources from other regions.


I have listed on this slide some of the areas in which we are active and in all of these you are the principal advisers to our governments.


We are saddened that our governments listen more to industry than the people, especially small producers and ordinary consumers, when developing Intellectual Property agreements - a poor signal to the rest of the world. We would also urge very strict regulation of Genetic Engineering and enforcement of the Precautionary Principle in order to protect future generations from some fantastic 'Mad Plant Disease'


SLIDE 17 Illegal seeds


However, it is encouraging to note significant improvements in collaboration since Leipzig in the development of Seed Laws, which recognise the value of local heritage, delisted and niche varieties of seeds. Selling these bean seeds may soon no longer be illegal.


SLIDE 18 Public Information


We have no doubt that there has been a growth in awareness and action since Leipzig. We have used many media to achieve this. One respondent noted that we need:


„Freedom of choice without sacrificing consumer protection"


This neatly summarises what most of us want - a loosely regulated market that excludes misinformation about seeds and excludes genetically modified material.


The celebration of Plant Diversity last Sunday here- the Braunschweig Seed Fair - a first in Germany, not only informed the nearly 200 participants, but extended to a wide audience nationally. For example, a short article netted nearly 1000 enquiries - and press interest in this event was picked up by the local media yesterday in print, radio and TV.


NGOs are networking more effectively among ourselves, e.g. the UK agricultural biodiversity coalition and an emerging European Network, and also, to the extent you are willing, with yourselves.


But we fear that you are 'missing the ball'.


SLIDE 19 Public image of GM seeds


The public do not trust scientific developments and can see no direct consumer benefits in genetically modified seeds. These technologically-driven changes in chemically compliant GM seeds are of no benefit, and possible harm, to farmers and consumers. Our job should be to promote the sustainable use of the wealth of resources already available to us not, in the words of some commentators recently, creating and promoting what one eminent retailer in the UK has called 'Frankenstein Foods'.


SLIDE 20 Public and Private Response


Industry's response has been to pump money into publicity campaigns (e.g. a reputed $22m on the Swiss referendum - who knows how much on the European Patent Directive vote and what Monsanto is spending on its current PR blitz in the UK press?). Our penniless response has been to use royalty.


And several movements of ecowarriors have taken direct action. Do you want to see more of this?


SLIDE 21 Seed mixture from Maragwa


Let us celebrate the diversity we have in our inherently diverse varieties and mixtures of seeds, such as this mixture of 11 varieties of sorghum, millet, beans and gourds from Kenya. This contains all the diversity needed to withstand pests, irregular rains and increased human demands.


SLIDE 22 Spheres of Influence


And it can be done, if we work together, to influence the public and consumers - the electorate (our bosses and our funders) - who, in a democratic and plural society have the right to frame the institutions and legal systems that give the priorities for your work. It is society's investment in public sector R&D (and regulation of private R&D) which determines the real choices for users of PGRFA - both producers and consumers.


SLIDE 23 Harvested Squash collection


It is an enormous challenge to achieve this. If you want more support for your work, the public must believe in you - and isn't that questionable at present?


SLIDE 24 Future developments


So, in summary, there are:


Opportunities through:


We note constraints:


Overall, a major constraint is the resources that are needed - a perennial concern, which lowers our effectiveness. But we are now in an electronic age, which facilitates networking and exchange of information at relatively low cost, and we would wish to extend our links to every European country - helping with the development of emerging NGOs in the east.


And there is a New Agenda being formulated in the lobbies of FAO, CBD, WTO, EU, which could increase recognition and support for PGRFA and especially through increasing awareness and practical actions by NGOs. Will you join us in lobbying for this?



SLIDE 25 Our Joint Mission...


Can we agree on a joint mission, and all of this for the survival of future generations?

Let us ensure, together, that the Technologies used for developing diversity, the Services provided and Intellectual Property systems adopted, achieve:

This is an important mission, of vital concern to people throughout Europe and the rest of the world.


SLIDE 26 ...for future generations


But let us remember what this is all about. It is about the impact of today's actions on the future.


I leave you with these few words found on the childhood bedroom wall of a fellow NGO campaigner...


All the Flowers

Of all the Tomorrows

Are in the Seeds of Today


Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of NGOs across Europe, I thank you for this opportunity to speak to you and for your attention.


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ON-FARM WORKING GROUP - notes and summary of recommendations

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Working Group on On-farm management and improvement of PGRFA"

The Plenary session on on-farm management and improvement of PGRFA, chaired by Nancy Arrowsmith, Seed Savers International and Petter Marum, Norway, started with the presentation of papers, by Ruraidh Sackville-Hamilton, IGER, UK on the management of grassland genetic resources, and by Prof F Suarez of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain on biodiversity conservation in Mediterranean agro-pastoral systems and four papers by NGOs: Conservation and management of crop genetic resources for family consumption, by Alan Gear, HDRA, UK; The public service role of farmers involved in the conservation of crop genetic resources, by Martin Bossard, Pro Specie Rara, Switzerland; The role of networks and associations in the production/diffusion of planting materials of old cultivars and landraces in Europe, by Nana Nemsadze, ELKANA, Georgia; and On-farm improvement and breeding, by Karl-Josef Müller, Gesellschaft für goetheanistische Forschung eV, Germany. Subsequently a Working Group session discussed a wide range of aspects and then subdivided into 3 groups to discuss:

 needs for information and training;

 needs for surveying, assessment and research; and,

 needs relating to policy frameworks with regard to the interaction between conservation and agricultural production.

The outcome of these presentations and discussions resulted in the following conclusions and recommendations.

  1. There was consensus that on-farm management and improvement should fully take into account the sustainability as well as economic feasibility of on-farm activities for farmers and gardeners.
  2. Most participants recognised that legislation has had little or no positive impact on the conservation of PGRFA on-farm: concern was expressed that existing agricultural measures, seed laws, regulations and Intellectual Property Rights systems limit rather than increase options for the maintenance and use of a wide range of PGRFA on-farm and in-garden.
  3. There was agreement that the full breadth and diversity of farmers' and gardeners' involvement in the conservation, management and improvement of PGRFA needs to be given due consideration in developing conservation and management strategies.
  4. Also, that a better definition of the terms employed is necessary to avoid misinterpretations in the further discussions regarding on-farm management.
  5. Policy questions were seen as an important issue and attracted great interest in the working group. In particular, reform of EU policies and seed laws were identified as a central theme.
  6. Discussions at the national and international level, as well as between the formal and informal sectors, were considered necessary in order to find constructive approaches to maintain agricultural biodiversity in on-farm situations, and to encourage further development and improvement of such activities.
  7. There was recognition that a significant number of activities and considerable experience exist in the informal sector on the conservation, management, development and promotion of PGRFA on-farm and in-garden. Also that the complementarities, added-value and distinct competencies of different actors, and that the maintenance of biodiversity and on-farm activities are both dynamic processes.
  8. However, the promotion of on-farm management is one of the weaker areas in the implementation of the Global Plan of Action in Europe by the formal sector.
  9. In this context it was noted, in particular, that:

  on-going on-farm management activities and stakeholders need to be surveyed and documented in most countries and information needs to be made available through suitable mechanisms (e.g. Clearing House Mechanism);

  mechanisms are required to document farmers' knowledge, and plant traits of interest in on-farm management, within existing Central Crop Databases;

  definitions are needed with regard to both PGRFA (e.g. the definition of 'varieties') and conservation and management methods on-farm;

  communications and information exchange within and between different sets of actors need to be improved;

  there are significant training needs: opportunities to involve members of the informal sector in training courses should be sought wherever possible;

  cooperation needs to be improved between and within the formal and informal sectors: for example, the formal sector by providing scientific guidance and backup services for storage of collections ex situ and the informal sector by providing better outreach and capacity for on-farm management and raising public awareness;

  there is a general lack of case studies detailing effective programmes of work to assist in the understanding of how on-farm management in Europe can function.


Summary of recommendations of the Working Group on

"On-farm management and improvement of PGRFA"

(reordered and edited)

 The Working Group recommends that:

1. an ECP/GR thematic network on on-farm management for PGRFA be activated in, and relevant activities be included in crop networks during the work programme for, Phase VI of the ECP/GR work programme, in order to fully implement Activity 2 of the GPA in Europe;

2. the work programme of this thematic network include a number of issues that were identified by the participants of the Working Group, such as:

  resolving the problems of definitions;

  stimulating the compilation of minimum descriptor lists for on-farm management of PGRFA;

  compiling an inventory of experiences of on-farm management of PGRFA;

  improving communication and information exchange within and between different sets of actors;

  developing case studies on experiences of formal and informal sector cooperation on the different elements of GPA Activity 2;

  documenting farmers' knowledge, and plant traits of interest in on-farm management, for inclusion into the Central Crop Databases;

  identifying training needs, involving the informal sector wherever possible;

3. the ECP/GR identify mechanisms for improving relations between formal and informal sector institutions. One such mechanism could include inviting European NGO representation in the ECP/GR Steering Committee and the ECP/GR networks;

4. national programmes should develop further activities relating to on-farm management of PGRFA, in collaboration with the informal sector; and, given all of the above,

5. the ECP/GR should establish a temporary Task Force, existing up until the first meeting of the thematic network, composed of people with good knowledge of on-farm management and representing both the formal and informal sectors. The Task force should:

  have a mandate to draft terms of reference for the first meeting of the on-farm management thematic network;

   provide this network with an analysis of the most important issues raised by on-farm management of PGRFA;

   use various ways to communicate its ideas and proposals to a larger audience so that strategies and new initiatives for an ECP/GR on-farm management programme of PGRFA can be established.


As edited by PMM (16/7/98)

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In Situ Conservation and Development: Wild Relatives of Cultivated Crops

In the session on In Situ Conservation and Development: Wild Relatives of Cultivated Crops, papers were presented on: National networks for in situ conservation in France, Genetic diversity in German PGR, the Ammiad experimental in situ project, in situ conservation of PGRFA in Armenia and the opportunities that exist for collaboration between in situ conservation and the UNESCO Man and Biosphere project, and these set the scene for the following report and recommendations.

Conservation of wild relatives of crop plants in situ is a major weakness in the implementation of the GPA in European (as in other parts of the world). The need for action is critical in each of the Member States.

The workshop endorses the need for an active in situ conservation thematic network under the aegis of the ECP/GR to address these key issues and recommends that it should undertake the following priority action at the national and European levels to further the implementation of in situ conservation of wild relatives of crops.

The workshop emphasises the highly inter-disciplinary nature of in situ conservation actions and drew attention to the fact that unlike ex situ conservation the in situ approach by its nature is dynamic and not a static process and as a consequence target species populations and the ecosystems in which they occur will change in time.



The workshop recommends that an ad hoc meeting is held to assess work at national levels to review project experiences, identify further conservation, research and training initiatives, coordinate research and training priorities at a European level, and that the meeting should involve the participation of representative from EUFORGEN.

The workshop recommends that invitations to the ad hoc meeting are extended through Europe and neighbouring regions in view of the close biogeographical links between Europe and the Mediterranean region.


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Thank you Chairs for allowing me to make a statement on behalf of NGOs invited to this Symposium.

We are very pleased by the welcome you have given us - we have felt fully included in all aspects of the Symposium from: involvement in the Organising Committee; Chairing sessions; Making presentations; Participation in Working Groups and in formulating recommendations; and many informal bilateral discussions...

So, from our point of view it has been a positive process.

We would wish to see this process continue at a European Regional level, perhaps through the ECP/GR inviting an NGO representative from, say, the emerging European Agricultural Biodiversity Network, to be an observer on the Steering Committee, as already recommended, and through full involvement by NGOs in the development of National policies and programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

We feel that this would assist you in incorporating the views, energy, capacities and activities of NGOs and other Informal Sector actors in your programmes - something which is necessary (not least for the implementation of the GPA in Europe) and which you agreed to in Nitra and reaffirmed here, but something that is often missing in your agreed actions. We know how to help you to achieve this collaboration and capitalize on our strengths, for example in public awareness raising (remember the Braunschweig Seed Fair that we held in the town centre last Sunday and the many examples presented in this Symposium). We believe this would be to the mutual benefit of both the formal and informal sectors. We need each other.

The public can be real allies. They can help persuade a government that is looking for cuts in budgets that it cannot cut gene banks. You need the public on your side. In our experience they understand the importance of preserving genetic diversity. If it would help to have a slogan around which they could rally it could be, as I discussed with Hannes Lorenzen yesterday, „Save Agricultural Biodiversity - Eat It!"

In order to facilitate collaboration between the formal and informal sectors we are especially concerned that:

Your sentiments appear very positive but we would like to see the NGOs' and Informal Sector's views and contributions fully incorporated into the recommendations of this meeting and for these to be adopted by the ECP/GR Steering Committee.

But, most importantly, we would like to see some concrete actions.

3 July 1998


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NGOs' acceptance of invitation to be observers on the ECP/GR Steering Committee

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Patrick Mulvany (ITDG), representing the emerging European NGO agricultural biodiversity network, welcomed the invitation made by the Steering Committee to attend its meeting as an observer [bearing in mind the concerns expressed by NGOs before and during the PGRFA Symposium]. He clarified that the NGOs were undergoing a process over the next year to further develop linkages between European NGOs working on agricultural biodiversity issues, one result of which would be agreement on a nominated person who would fulfil this role in future. With regard to the Steering Committee meeting [held in Braunschweig on 4th and 5th of July], he said he would feed back to European NGOs after having checked with the Secretariat the status and confidentiality of the information.


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