Latin America and its plant genetic richness
conservation, domestication and productive systems a policy-tecnical challenge
Keywords:appropriation, erosion, strategies, regional, sustainable
Latin America’s plant genetic richness and its contribution to the world's diet, are presented. Some acute problems of the modern world are described, namely genetic erosion and controversies on the appropriation of plant genetic resources. A diagram is proposed for the management of plant genetic resources, from collection to productive use. The current situation regarding the phases of this process is analyzed for Latin America, with emphasis in southern countries; this analysis indicates that the collection effort is disproportionately large in relation to the final products obtained (domestication and productive use of native species). The domestication of particular species is discussed, focusing on the historic case of yerba mate (Ilex paraguayensis). The plant genetic resources of Uruguay are discussed in detail; it is pointed out that the identification of species was completed several decades ago, and that cases of domestication of new species are scarce. Reflections and proposals are made towards the integration and speeding up of different phases of the process leading to plant genetic resource utilization. These proposals should be oriented by long-term regional goals, and applicable to specific sustainable production systems. Emphasis is placed on the need for cultural change among political and technical decision-makers, leading to a reappraisal of priorities, and the establishment of appropriate strategies. To be successful, these strategies need to gather strong support, both from the governmental sector and from farmers and local communities. It is concluded that bringing about change towards the successful use of Latin American plant genetic resources constitutes a major challenge to our political-technical creativity.
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