September 27, 2010

The Honorable John Kerry
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Richard Lugar
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Kerry and Ranking Member Lugar,

On behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the Ecological Society of America (ESA), we encourage you to take action on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which is currently pending before the committee.

Preservation of genetic and biological diversity is essential, especially in a changing climate. Natural science collections play a key role in this task, acting as a type of insurance against future plant diseases or catastrophic events through the preservation of biological specimens, tissue and cell samples, and genetic information. Collections also underpin global research that is essential for efforts to combat hunger and the impacts of climate change on food supplies.

Unfortunately, many natural science collections are at risk. Lack of funds, loss of technically trained staff, and inadequate protection against natural disasters are jeopardizing these irreplaceable resources worldwide. In a recently issued joint letter (attached), our societies emphasized the importance of preserving these resources around the world:

"Natural science collections are essential infrastructure supporting the global research, development and educational enterprises. The collections gathered and held by many institutions over the past half millennium are fundamental reference points for measuring and monitoring human health, safety, and the state of our planet. Many living collections, for example at agricultural research and experiment stations, are essential to our collective efforts to develop, conserve and cultivate sustainable and nutritious food crops. Unfortunately, too many natural science collections around the world are in danger of being closed or losing the biological resources and data they contain - the knowledge that explains the history of life on earth and will help society advance into the future."

The ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture by the United States is an important step toward the preservation of plant genetic diversity. We welcome your efforts on this important matter and would be happy to work with you on this and other efforts to preserve global genetic and biological diversity.

If our organizations may be of further assistance on this or any other matter, please contact Robert Gropp, AIBS Director of Public Policy at 202-628-1500, or Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs at 202-833-8773.


Richard T. O'Grady, Ph.D.
Executive Director, AIBS

Katherine S. McCarter
Executive Director, ESA

Attachment 1: Joint Statement on Living and Non-living Natural Science Collections

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