Since the early 1990s worldwide efforts concerned with the safeguard and sustainable utilization of agricultural biodiversity have been strongly supported by numerous initiatives, in particular the Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992, the Global Plan of Action (GPA) for the conservation and the sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in 1996 and the FAO International Treaty on PGRFA in 2001. To implement these agreements, a series of initiatives, at international, regional and national level, have been undertaken. Italy ratified the CBD in 1994 and the International Treaty (IT) in 2004 and established that the Ministry of Environment has the competence for biodiversity in general, while the Ministry of Agricultural Policies has the competence in the field of Biodiversity for food and agriculture. Furthermore, the European Union supports initiatives aiming at the recovery, conservation, characterization, documentation and exploration of plant genetic resources by funding projects within its AGRI GEN RES programmes. Within this framework Italy has approved a series of laws and projects which have led to the establishment of the Committee for Genetic Resources, the endorsement of the National Plan for Agricultural Biodiversity, as well as the publication of laws from several Regional Governments for the recovery, characterization and conservation ex situ and in situ of autochthonous GR at risk of extinction. As a result, several specific long and medium term activities were launched, such as a national project for the implementation of the IT which comprises more than 70 major crop species of agro-economic relevance. At regional level, many programmes for the recovery, safeguard and documentation of local germplasm have been carried out, often in collaboration with University departments or other stakeholders, and private initiatives, such as NGOs, united in the “Rural Seeds Network”, which contribute both to the activities carried out at national and local level.
Keywords: horticulture, legislation, conservation, characterisation, autochthonous germplasm