• Non-ICIMOD Publication

Property rights, collective action and plant genetic resources

  • McCarthy, N.
  • Eyzaguirre, P.
  • Dennis, E.
  • Gregorio, M. D.

Genetic resources are the genetic material in plants and animals that determine useful traits that people can conserve, characterise, evaluate and use to meet their needs. These resources are not simply the genes encoded in DNA, but particular expressions of the genes that farmers, scientists and plant breeders have recognised and selected. Research has estimated that the value of increases in crop yields derived from new genes and genetic modification since 1945 has amounted to about US$115 billion a year worldwide. Conservation of genetic resources contributes to plant genetic diversity, which includes both the combination of species that constitutes an ecosystem (genetic diversity across species), as well as the number of different varieties within a species. Development agencies, researchers, and policymakers are growing increasingly concerned about the consequences of the current erosion of genetic diversity. The 1997 FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) synthesis of around 150 country reports states that nearly all countries report that crop genetic erosion is taking place and that it is a serious problem. Loss of biodiversity in cultivated and wild species can increase plants&rsquo; vulnerability to insect pests and diseases, worsen nutrition through declines in the variety of foods available, reduce the capacity of plant resources to adapt to changing conditions, and lead to loss of local knowledge about diversity.These effects can in turn reduce food security, threaten the sustainability of agricultural production systems and jeopardise the livelihoods of rural communities today and for generations to come.<br /> <br /> Many factors affect the conservation of biodiversity, including demographic changes, technological developments, national agricultural policies, and economic, social, and cultural factors. Institutional aspects related to property rights and collective action play a key role in local plant genetic conservation outcomes.

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    International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2020 Collective action and property rights for sustainable development: Focus 11, Brief 10 of 16, February 2004: http://www.ifpri.org/2020/focus/focus11/focus11_10.pdf