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Management and sustainable use of genetic resources


Specific challenge: Genetic diversity in agriculture and forestry - both within and between species - is commonly recognised as a pre-requisite to ensure food security, productivity as well as resilience of crops, forests and animals vis-à-vis biotic and abiotic threats in changing environments.  Widening the genetic basis of crops, forest trees and animals as well as diversifying production is therefore essential. This requires coordinated efforts to enhance conservation, access and use of a wide range of genetic resources conserved in ex-situ and in-situ/on-farm conditions. Local livestock breeds, forest plants and crops are a particularly important source of genetic variation as they are associated with a number of favourable characters such as robustness, adaptation to local – often marginal – conditions or organoleptic and health attributes. They also provide the basis for products with a regional identity for which there is increased consumer interest. Despite these benefits their use has been decreasing partly because of lower productivity as compared to modern, high yielding and more uniform breeds and varieties. The improvement of local breeds and crops provides opportunities for diversification in agriculture along with new openings for regional, high quality products and for economic development.

Scope: Proposals should address one of the following issues (A) or (B), and should clearly indicate to which one they refer.

A. [2014] Traditional resources for agricultural diversity and the food chain

Proposals should enhance description and evaluation as well as management and performance of local varieties and breeds along with their respective farming and (seed) production systems. Measures deployed should potentially span from research to demonstration and dissemination as well as development of (environmentally and economically) sustainable production schemes.  Proposals should have a relevant socio-economic dimension, tap into knowledge from the formal and informal sectors, encourage the creation of networks within and between regions and address the value chain for regional high quality products. Overall, activities should capture more systematically the value of diverse and so far untapped genetic resources and encourage their broader use in breeding activities, in farming and in the food chain. Proposals should address either livestock or crop genetic resources (including from forest trees as relevant in farming activities). Proposals should fall under the concept of 'multi-actor approach'[1] and allow for adequate involvement of the farming sector in proposed activities.

B. [2015] Management and sustainable use of genetic resources

Proposals should implement comprehensive actions to improve the status and use of (in particular European) ex-situ and in-situ genetic collections. More specifically, they should support acquisition, conservation, characterisation/evaluation and especially the use of specific genetic resources in breeding, farming and forestry activities. Furthermore, proposals should undertake broader dissemination and awareness raising activities. In doing so, they should closely liaise with relevant on-going initiatives e.g. seeking to harmonise, rationalise and improve management of existing collections and databases[2]. In line with the objectives of the EU strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, proposals are encouraged to include participants established in third countries[3]. This action allows for the provision of financial support to third parties in line with conditions set out in Part K of the General Annexes. Proposals should address crop, forest and/or livestock genetic resources.

Applicants should demonstrate that activities falling under the scope of the EU regulation implementing the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing comply with the obligations stipulated therein.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 3–4 million for (A) and EUR 5–7 million for (B) would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: Proposals should show how some, or all, of the following impacts will be achieved:

         improved in-situ/on-farm management and evaluation of genetic resources by the farming sector

         productivity and economic gains in specialised farming systems from the conventional and organic sectors

         promotion of  traditional and/or underutilised crops (and their wild relatives as relevant) and breeds

         increased availability of diverse, high quality products, e.g. with enhanced health benefits for consumers

         economic benefits for farmers, other types of SMEs and regional economies through the expansion or creation of new products and markets

         broader adaption of livestock and cultivated plants (crops, forest trees for agriculture/agro-forestry) to limiting or changing agro-climatic conditions, e.g. by enhancing robustness through the use of adaptive traits from landraces and local breeds

         enhanced quality and scope of European ex-situ collections and in-situ collections/on-farm management

         enhanced methodologies for management, conservation, characterisation and evaluation of genetic resources

         increased transfer of genetic material into breeding programmes, farming or forest practices, i.e. through identification of useful traits (variation) in collections

         increased awareness on the value of genetic resources by end-users and possibly stronger engagement of end-users in the sound management of these resources

         Contribution to implementation of international commitments in the area such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, as well as the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

         more extensive  use of genetic resources in agriculture and forestry

         overall contribution to food security by supporting innovations in breeding and farming

Type of action: Research and innovation actions

[1] See definition of 'multi-actor approach' in footnote 1 in the introduction of this Work Programme part.

[2] See for example Horizon 2020 call INFRAIA 1-2014/2015: Integrating and opening existing national and regional research infrastructures of pan-European interest

[3] This is without prejudice to the general rules on the funding of legal entities from third-countries, as set in part A of the annex to the work programme.