Red-listing crops as a tool in adaptation strategies

21 December 2011 | News story

CEC member Maria-Mihaela Antofie of Romania was involved in developing a methodology based on IUCN categories to preserve food security under climate change.

A Red List of crops varieties should be a proactive tool that may be deployed in climate change adaptation strategies through adaptation measures covering crops management, associated knowledge in our efforts of supporting food security. Such a red list was developed for Romania based on the IUCN modified methodology.

Three key elements are of outmost importance in preserving our food security under climate change:

  1. crops species including their varieties as genetic resources for food and agriculture;
  2. associated knowledge to crops genetic erosion (e.g. traditional and scientific knowledge) and
  3. crops’ agro-ecosystems.

If a crop’s associated knowledge is at risk of extinction once a crop’s genetic erosion is installed, changing in climate or political regime will negatively impact the crops’ diversity and a Red List for crops should act as one of the missing links in our attempts for halting biodiversity loss under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In our book are described case studies in Sibiu county, a Romanian region covered by 49.11% protected areas and we underline the importance of landraces conservation on farm – in traditional communities long time established in these ecosystems which today are resident into protected areas.

As it is not possible to apply the IUCN methodology as such we propose some changes for the nine categories. Thus, we propose to use the on farm concept instead of in situ concept to avoid confusion for in the wild taking into consideration that crops may survive only because of the human care. Traditional knowledge assessment should be assessed in local communities based on their socio-economic vulnerabilities. This methodology proposes to Romania the year 1989 – on one hand as the base year for climate change under Kyoto Protocol and on the one hand as the year of political regime changes. For crops species it is very important to refer to official and scientific documents. But on the other hand we need to cover the range between landraces – not officially recognized and crops varieties – protected by the official legislation. Moreover, crops varieties may be either officially placed on the market, erased or under conservation. Actually old crops varieties may become vulnerable for being removed from the market due to new crop varieties pushing on the market.

Considering all above mentioned issued in 21 years a total of 338 varieties belonging to 31 species listed in the Plant Treaty and registered for 1989 have been officially cancelled in Romania among which 191 varieties have been created by public research institutes. Thus, 56, 5% of the Romanian varieties have been cancelled and no conservation strategy is in place for supporting the official political commitments regarding the conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture under the Plant Treaty. We registered at least 5 shifting period of time for crops diversity in our country: before communism, during the communism, after communism, before entering into the EU and after entering into the EU – all associated with massive official corps erosion.

Moreover, in the country side – local communities still preserve very old landraces, especially in traditional agriculture ecosystems into protected areas or in buffering zones. These plant genetic resources are not protected today and their including into a Red List may help their adaptation capacity – in line to the Plant Treaty requirements and supporting food security for rural population.

For more information, contact Antofie Maria Mihaela, mihaela_antofie@yahoo.com