Voluntary Guidelines for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Food Plants

Voluntary Guidelines for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Food Plants

Crop wild relatives thrive in their natural habitats without human intervention. In fact, they are continuously evolving adaptive characteristics that enable them to cope with changing environmental conditions. Therefore, they are a rich reservoir of novel traits and genes that can be used to develop crop varieties that are adapted to climate change. There is ample evidence of their successful use in crop improvement.

Wild food plants, on the other hand, constitute important components of the diets of many people across the globe. Though undomesticated, they are rich sources of very important micronutrients, which, sadly, are lacking in the main staple crops that people are increasingly relying on for nourishment. Wild food plants could therefore play critically important roles in combatting malnutrition. As they exist in the wild, they are also continuously evolving adaptive features.

Crop wild relatives and wild food plants share one thing in common: their habitats. These natural wild habitats are increasingly under threat from both human activities and natural disasters, implying that the diversity of both crop wild relatives and wild food plants are being continuously eroded. In fact, many could become extinct if the current level of neglect is not checked.

FAO’s ongoing support to countries on the conservation and sustainable use of these resources is in accord with several international instruments and agreements. These include the Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the Second Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and, most recently, the Sustainable Development Goals. As a latest example of its support to countries, FAO has developed the Voluntary Guidelines for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Food Plants.