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Meetings of Working Groups (In situ Conservation and Valorisation; Ex situ Conservation; Documentation and Information) of the European Regional Focal Point for Animal Genetic Resources

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The European Regional Focal Point for Animal Genetic Resources (ERFP) is the regional platform to support the in situ and ex situ conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources (AnGR) and to facilitate the implementation of FAO’s Global Plan of Action for AnGR. Since 2001, ERFP facilitates the collaboration, coordination of work and exchange of information and experience between different European countries and governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The meetings of the Working Groups, which operate as part of the European Regional Focal Point, were held on 1-3 June 2022. They were attended by Grażyna Polak, Ph.D. Eng., Ewa Sosin, Ph.D. Eng and Agnieszka Chełmińska, Ph.D. Eng.

The following topics were addressed on day one as part of the In situ Working Group :

  • The European Animal Genetic Resources Strategy in terms of in situ conservation regulations
  • Arc farms for in situ conservation (Arca-Net)
  • Development of the action plan for different areas of animal genetic resources conservation
  • Development of multi-year programme of work (MYPOW) for ERFP
  • Results of the Ad Hoc Action for “Merino”
  • Preliminary results of a survey on payments as part of the Rural Development Programme and Strategic Plan
  • Tools to communicate information about AnGR conservation via instant messengers

Future work plan for In situWorking Groupwas also presented.

The following issues were addressed as part of the Ex situ Working Group:

  • European Animal Genetic Resources Strategy (EAGRS), including future implementation of key commitments for ex situ conservation resulting from EAGRS, and how to achieve the aims
  • Development of the Action Plan for ex situ conservation in the context of key commitments resulting from EAGRS
  • Development of multi-year programme of work for ex situ conservation in the context of future changes (funding)
  • New EU strategic plan and financial support for genetic resources
  • Nordfrost project for cryopreservation of material from Scandinavian breeds
  • German project for ex situ in vivo conservation, based on collaboration with zoos and Arc farms (IMAGE Ad Hoc Action) – results of the projects and tools to support, develop and improve the activities of European gene banks
  • Ex situ Working Group action plan for 2023 and future planning of Ad Hoc Action.

On day two, the interaction of environmental conditions and local animal breeds, which developed under their influence, was discussed:

  • Native/local breeds vs. preservation of local environmental conditions and their protection, using the examples from Croatia (Landscape management of Lonjsko polje Nature Park), Slovenia (Triglav National Park and local breeds), Germany (Local breeds landscape management in Germany), and Serbia (Local breeds conservation on Stara Planina).
  • The importance of native breeds and their products were discussed using the examples of case studies from Norway (3MC project for Nordic Mountain Cattle – Culture and Genetic Resources), Lithuania (Ash Grey cattle and cheese making), and Poland (Ecosystem activities in selected National Parks – case studies from Poland and Italy).
  • New projects as part of the Ad Hoc Action were proposed.
  • Project as part of Horizon post 2020 – European Reference Centre.

Day three was devoted to team work on:

  • key commitments resulting from EAGRS
  • development of the Action Plan for the Strategy
  • proposals to develop the multi-year programme of work (funding)
  • mode and ways of information circulation as part of the Action Plan for the Strategy
  • tasks supported by the ERFP as part of the European Reference Centre project
  • situation of Ukrainian genetic resources in the context of the Russian aggression

Other motions

The ERFP secretariat asked all those gathered to send information (photographs and short descriptions) about the native/local breeds and the activities to promote genetic resources in European countries. This information will be placed in social media on ERFP pages. Roswitha Baumung, who represents FAO at the ERFP, put forward a proposal to organize the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group (ITWG), which will take place in late 2022 (proposed period 14-16 December). ITWG meetings are held every two years alternately to the meetings of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA). As an exception, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the calendar of meetings was changed and in 2021 both the Commission meeting and the ITWG meeting (two months earlier) were held, although according to plan, the latter should take place in the previous year compared to the planned calendar. Due to the special food situation caused by the pandemic and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, namely the danger of hunger in the developing countries, it is necessary to organize in Rome a meeting of the Working Groups for different biodiversity areas. To this end, it is crucial to prepare a number of documents that present the current situation in different countries of the world and to determine positions that will be presented at the next Commission (FAO CGRFA).

Conclusions of the meeting

  1. It is necessary to get involved in the work to organize the European Reference Centre – the elaborated documents and the associated legislation on the functioning of the farm animal genetic resources conservation network will apply to all EU countries.
  2. It is crucial to speed up work on creating a gene bank in Poland.
  3. In the context of the Strategic Plan, special attention was drawn to the genotype and environment interaction, indicating that it is important to elaborate the rules of closer collaboration/education/awareness raising of breeding societies and their authorities, owing to the increasingly important aspect of the breed-environment-local product correlation. In this context special attention should be paid to the distribution of native breeds (most of which are local breeds in Poland), because the acquisition of raw materials and local products and the certification thereof are dependent on this. Second-day presentations (points 15 and 16) stressed the big impact of local breeds in the areas where they were developed on maintaining the genetic resources of plants, microorganisms and other associated biodiversity, and vice versa.
  4. The EUGENA project in the context of the European Animal Genetic Resources Strategy – motions placed for inclusion in the strategy

  • conclusions at the ERFP level – to continue promoting EUGENA through the web portal, to support and encourage countries to supplement information concerning the gene banks and the collections therein,
  • conclusions for consideration at the UE level – to encourage the National Coordinators (NC) for EUGENA promotion to develop projects concerning collaboration in the area of ex situ resources at the European level,
  • conclusions at the national level (for different countries) – to encourage the National Coordinators (NC) to promote EUGENA, to encourage entities involved in AnGR conservation to exchange information about breeds (especially transboundary breeds) and collaborate, and to encourage gene banks to collaborate and set up research projects.

5. Identification of animals/breeds with the use of genomic technique.