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In the enormous building in Rome containing the FAO headquarters, representatives from almost every country in the world are gathered this week to discuss international cooperation on genetic resources. NordGen participates in the meeting and also arranged a side event focusing on how to save threatened traditional breeds.

It’s been called a maze, the enormous and complex building which is housing FAO in Rome. But it has a magnificent view of Colosseum and Circo Massimo and this week gathers people from all over the world with a common, clear and ambitious goal: to reach a situation with sustainable conservation and utilization of genetic resources. “A large and important part of this work is handled by gene banks, farmers, foresters and researchers. But the task of preserving genetic resources is also a global responsibility, which has to be handled by the international community. Therefore, we need international agreements where the countries of the world agree upon common rules and guidelines, says Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive Director and NordGen’s representative in Rome this week.

Economic incentives needed

In connection with the meeting, NordGen arranged a panel debate called ”A Nordic approach to the saying ”Eat them to save them”: Examples of adding value to traditional breeds. “We wanted to discuss how important it is not only to conserve threatened breeds. To reach a long-term sustainable conservation it’s important to find economic incentives for farmers to choose native breeds instead of commercial breeds that gives higher yield”, says Mervi Honkatukia, Section Leader at NordGen Farm Animals. She gives an example from the project NordMilk, in which milk from native breeds was analyzed to identify properties unique for the breed. “Among other things, we’ve been able to see that milk from native breeds often are well suited for cheese production. And there is a potential in using this milk for infant formula due to the composition of oligosaccharides in the milk. But we need more research to confirm that” says Mervi Honkatukia.

Arranged every other year

The meeting arranged in Rome this week is held every other year and this year is the seventeenth session of FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA-17). The Commission gather representatives from 178 countries and EU to discuss issues concerning the international agreements regulating the countries work with genetic and biological diversity. You can read more about the Commission here.