Accessing Genetic Resources in Canada

What Are Genetic Resources:

Most people know about natural, biological, resources like the timber we get from trees or the grain we get from crops. A lot of people are unaware of another kind of valuable resource we get from the natural world, genetic resources. Genetic resources are described as any plant, animal, or microbial material that contains functioning genes that could be of actual or potential value. Genetic resources can be found in nature or in collections, botanical gardens, etc. One way to think about a genetic resource is that it is different than a biological resource because of they way you use it. If you use the genes then you are using a genetic resource.

Possible uses of genetic resources.

  • 1) Genetic modification

    Development of new varieties of organisms

    Transfer of a gene for pesticide resistance from one organism into another; Genetic modification of a micro-organism to produce enzymes or biofuels;

  • 2) Biosynthesis

    Use of genetic material as a "factory" to produce organic compounds, such as:

    • Antibodies; Vitamins; Hormones; Enzymes;or drugs
  • 3) Breeding and selection

    Creating new varieties, breeds, or strains of plants or animals

  • 4) Growing and cultivating the genetic resource in the form received

  • 5) Conservation

    Preserving organisms for conservation of genetic diversity, genetic resources or reintroduction purposes Captive breeding programmes,

    • Deposition in seedbanks, genebanks, culture collections, botanical gardens, zoos, and aquaria etc.
  • 6) Characterization and evaluation

    • Characterising plants, animals and micro-organisms for ecological and other studies and purposes
    • Collections of reference specimens in museums and herbaria
  • 7) Production of naturally occurring compounds

    • Screening and extraction of metabolites from genetic material
    • Chemical synthesis of metabolites occurring in genetic material

Research using genetic resources gives rise to a range of benefits, such as increased knowledge of our plants, animals and other organisms and a better understanding of how to use and conserve our biological diversity. In some instances, research on genetic resources also gives rise to important economic and social benefits - for example, in the breeding of crop plants to face new environmental challenges or the development of new drugs and medicines. It is important to understand that the benefits which come from the use of genetic resources are broad, and can include monetary payments as well as non-monetary benefits such as sharing new knowledge, scientific research and technologies.

What are genetic resources