Conservation and Use of Genetic Resources of Underutilized Crops in the Americas—A Continental Analysis
Genetic resources, Latin America
Latin America is home to dramatically diverse agroecological regions which harbor a high concentration of underutilized plant species, whose genetic resources hold the potential to address challenges such as sustainable agricultural development, food security and sovereignty, and climate change. This paper examines the status of an expert-informed list of underutilized crops in Latin America and analyses how the most common features of underuse apply to these. The analysis pays special attention to if and how existing international policy and legal frameworks on biodiversity and plant genetic resources effectively support or not the conservation and sustainable use of underutilized crops. Results show that not all minor crops are affected by the same degree of neglect, and that the aspects under which any crop is underutilized vary greatly, calling for specific analyses and interventions. We also show that current international policy and legal instruments have so far provided limited stimulus and funding for the conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of these crops. Finally, the paper proposes an analytical framework for identifying and evaluating a crop’s underutilization, in order to define the most appropriate type and levels of intervention (international, national, local) for improving its status.