According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 'genetic material' means any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity. 'Genetic resources' means genetic material of actual or potential value.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends:
(a) facilitating the conservation and safe exchange of plant, animal and microbial germ plasm by applying risk assessment and management procedures, including improved diagnostic techniques for detection of pests and diseases by better methods of rapid propagation;
(b) developing strategies for networks of in situ conservation areas and use of tools such as on-farm ex situ collections, germplasm banks and related technologies; and (c) cooperating on issues related to conservation of, access to and exchange of germ plasm.
The UK's £45 million "biobank" project will house DNA samples taken from 500,000 Britons aged 45 to 69. While it is not the world's first genetic database it will be the biggest and the most ethnically diverse. It is likely that the first use of the "biobank" will be to further the understanding of a science known as pharmacogenomics, which sets out to understand why people react differently to the same drugs.