In current times of global transformation—including the rapidly increasing human population and climate change—we need greater diversity to sustain our food supplies than ever before as the environmental conditions in which crops are cultivated become increasingly modified, changeable and uncertain. In the face of these challenges, our food, nutrition and economic security depend on the conservation and continual availability of a wide range of plant genetic resources for use by plant breeders and farmers to diversify and improve our crops.
Wild relatives of crops and locally adapted cultivated varieties ('landraces' or 'farmers' varieties') are rich sources of genetic diversity which provide vital ecosystem services to society by helping to build resilience in agriculture. Their conservation in situ—that is, in their natural habitats in the case of wild species or in the locations where they are cultivated in the case of landraces/farmers' varieties—with backup in ex situ facilities to provide access to material by plant breeders and farmers—is essential to maintain this diversity which is continually adapting to local environmental conditions. However, in situ conservation, with complementary ex situ conservation, is currently unplanned and uncoordinated, and to streamline and strengthen our efforts, we need effective and permanent support mechanisms in place.
The Farmer’s Pride project has brought together key actors to lay the foundations for lasting in situ conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in Europe, by establishing a new regional network of sites, populations, and conservation and use stakeholders. The network builds on existing regional, national and local networks, and relevant initiatives and policy. This conference is an arena to share knowledge and perspectives, promote the embedding of in situ conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in key legislative and governance frameworks, and scale out progress in Europe and other regions towards a global initiative to safeguard diversity for food and agriculture for the future.