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The world faces major challenges of population growth, climate change, increasing social and economic instability and a continuing failure to achieve food security. The challenge of achieving food security is made greater by the recognition that it must be done in ways that are sustainable, avoid continuing loss of biodiversity, address the adverse impact of climate change and take account of changing food intake patterns that, in the European Union (EU), are leading to a rapidly growing public health burden of diseases associated with over-consumption.
In the past decade, several academies of science in Europe have drawn attention to these diffi cult issues and to the role that the biosciences can play in enabling an innovative and resilient agriculture to contribute to resolving the multiple problems. In 2004, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) emphasised some of the ways by which advances in genomics could provide a basis to develop more productive and environmentally sustainable crop systems: in essence a new era in plant breeding whereby the linkage of genes to traits allows more effi cient and predictable crop breeding approaches. Recently, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Italy with the assistance of EASAC organised a survey and workshop to collect and analyse information on the current situation in the identification, conservation and use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture across the EU. This work confi rmed that there is much scientifi c excellence and a significant degree of commitment in many Member States and by the European institutions, but that there is also much more that can and should be done.
Deputy Head International Relations Department; Executive Director, EASAC Secretariat
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