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Genetic resources for food and agriculture

Genetic resources are genetic material of current or potential use. In technical terms "genetic material" means any material of plant, microbial or animal origin, including reproductive and vegetative propagating material, containing functional units of heredity;

In everyday terms genetic resources range from, for example, fully mature plants, animals and microbes to seeds, cuttings, conserved embryos, eggs, and semen.

Diverse genetic resources are important for maintaining an efficient and sustainable farming industry, as they allow the development of varieties and breeds to cope with new demands. Genetic selection also has important consequences for animal health and welfare, and has an important role to play in reducing environmental pollution from livestock.

Defra is responsible for policy on genetic resources for food and agriculture for England and Wales. The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources contribute directly to Defra's objectives concerning a sustainable, competitive food supply chain, sustainable, diverse and adaptable farming and sustainable management of natural resources. Indigenous livestock breeds have a particular role to play in managing the rural environment and assisting in maintaining wild biological diversity

The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture is a widely supported international objective as a contribution to efforts to achieve global poverty elimination and world food security. Defra, in collaboration with the Department for International Development, has a continuing UK role to play in this area particularly in view of the rich diversity of plant varieties and animal breeds that the UK possesses that are of international interest.

Further information

Animal Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture (AnGR)

Farm Animal Genetic Resources in the UK are overseen by the UK National Co-ordinator for Farm Animal Genetic Resources (FAnGR). In the Sustainable & Agricultural Livestock Products Directorate (SALPD), the National Co-ordinator (NC) is part of the global network of official National Co-ordinators for AnGR.

The UK focal point on access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits (ABS) derived from their use.

National Standing Committee (NSC) on Farm Animal Genetic Resources (FAnGR)

The National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources was established in 2008 as a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) with participation from the devolved administrations. The Committee’s principal role is to provide advice to Government and interested parties on issues relating to farm animal genetic resources and to oversee implementation of the UK’s 2006 National Action Plan on Farm Animal Genetic Resources.

They encourage the conservation and sustainable use of farm animal genetic resources and help to set research and development priorities and advise on in situ and ex situ conservation programmes.

Other useful links


For further information on genetic resources policy:

Page last modified: 15 January 2010
Page published: 18 March 2003