Plant barcoding to protect biodiversity

Plant barcoding to protect biodiversity

New method addresses food security concerns

Thailand has adopted a DNA barcoding system in order to protect herbal plant species.

The Biodiversity-based Economy Development Office (Bedo) is in the process of applying the barcoding system to identify the origin of herbal plants, fruit trees, and related species to preserve ecological biodiversity.

Speaking during a regional meeting on biodiversity across agricultural sectors, Bedo director, General Chularat Niratisayakul said the agency is also working with the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology to study the DNA sequencing of plants listed in its so-called "community biobank" in a bid to resolve intellectual property and patent issues facing Thai herbal medicines and supplements.

"Thailand is rich in natural resources and this benefits people not only in agricultural communities but also those in urban areas. However, rapid deforestation and agricultural land abuse continue to threaten biodiversity in the country. Only a few varieties of plant species have been used for agricultural purposes," she said.

The DNA barcoding system will also enable the agency to effectively compile a database of natural resources which will be crucial in conserving and enhancing natural resources for better food security, Ms Chularat added.

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the world's most biologically diverse regions, however, human activity -- including the expansion of agriculture -- is threatening the survival of several species.

According to a State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), biodiversity, which acts as a foundation for food systems, is disappearing and putting the future of food, health, and the environment under threat. Those who work in the agriculture sector will be hardest hit.

"The agriculture sector in Asia must do its part to help conserve and promote the sustainable use of natural resources to ensure food security and nutrition for the present and future generations," said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. "Biodiversity is critical for safeguarding the region's food security, ensuring healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities," she explained in remarks to a regional meeting on biodiversity where government officials, international agencies, the private sector, NGOs and academia from 30 countries across Asia were present.

"The Asia-Pacific region is critical as it contains more biodiversity hotspots than any other region," said David Cooper, Convention on Biological Diversity's Deputy Executive Secretary. "It hosts more than half the world's farmers, fishermen, and some of the world's fastest-growing economies. What happens here will determine the future of life on earth."

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