Álvaro Toledo. FAO.

There are more than 350 000 currently described plant species, with thousands of newly identified species still being added to the global list every year. Of these known plants, more than 7 000 documented species and perhaps up to 30 000 plants in total may be considered edible by humans, with at least 7 000 having been cultivated to some degree for food and agricultural purposes. Yet only a small fraction of these plants feed humanity at the present time. Statistical information published by FAO, both for individually measured crops and those included within generalized commodity categories – in combination assumedly representing much of the human diet worldwide – is recorded for approximately 255 plants. These include around 26 cereals, 17 roots and tubers, 26 pulses, 44 vegetables, 69 fruits, 14 nuts, 28 oils, 24 herbs and spices, 3 sugars, and 4 stimulant crops. Plant experts generally agree that between 250 to 350 crops and forages are responsible for plant’s contribution to world food security, with the olive tree being amongst them.

Safeguarding plant genetic diversity most important for the present and future of world’s food security and sustainable agriculture is a common concern of all countries, as all countries depend very largely on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture that originated elsewhere. The important role the plant genetic diversity plays for agricultural research and innovation and to support the livelihoods of farmers around the world led FAO to negotiate and adopt the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The FAO’s Plant Treaty develops a number of global mechanisms and strategies to ensure that plant genetic resources are shared amongst researchers, breeders and genebank curators in a facilitated and multilateral manner, and to guarantee the long-term conservation of plant diversity for use by future generations. The Plant Treaty also recognizes the enormous contribution that farmers and local and indigenous communities have made to the conservation and development of crop genetic diversity. A global funding strategy includes mechanisms and institutions that support the resource mobilization required to ensure the Plant Treaty implementation. At a time of digital and information revolutions, a global information system within the Treaty pools together scientific and technical information on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. FAO’s Plant Treaty therefore provides a series of policy, legal and financial frameworks to promote food security, biodiversity conservation and agriculture’s adaption to climate change.

 The International Olive Council (OIC) and FAO, through the Treaty’s Secretariat, have been cooperating recently to support the conservation and use of olive genetic resources. The governing bodies of both institutions have stressed the importance of international cooperation, including by formalizing agreements that integrate olive genetic resources within the framework of the International Treaty. On 14 June 2024, a landmark agreement was signed by Spain, FAO and COI  to place the World Olive Germplasm Bank of Cordoba (Spain) under the auspices of the International Treaty. Other international collections of olive germplasm are also taking steps in this direction. This presentation will inform the World Olive Congress about the opportunities of cooperation that arise from placing international olive germplasm collections under the auspices of the International Treaty.