It is my pleasure to introduce to you the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre (Mawarid), following His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said's order to review Oman's opportunities in protection of its globally significant genetic resources.
Now more important than ever, the conservation and use of genetic resources is, in fact, an ancient practice. Since time immemorial, Omani farmers have chosen seed for future planting, domesticated wild animals and plants, and selected and bred them to meet their needs. As a result, over the years, hundreds of different species have been domesticated and within each species, human and natural selection have combined to produce innumerable varieties.
Today, as the international community addresses the impacts of climate crisis, deals with the challenges of feeding growing populations, and looks for new remedies for ever-evolving diseases, the unique and untapped characteristics of Oman's natural heritage, in particular its resilience to environmental stresses and resistance to pests, are attracting the attention of scientists and researchers around the world.
Regardless of where we live, natural ecosystem goods and services provide us with a wide range of necessities and comfort. From our breakfast bowl of beans and fruit that were made possible by insect pollination to the glass of fresh water purified by a wetland or the aspirin taken to cure a headache, nature is there to serve our needs. Yet most are unaware of its economic significance.
And should we need to speak in terms of the economics of ecosystems and genetic wealth, if the value of biodiversity needs to be measured in hard currency, It is estimated that the annual value of the goods and services it provides reaches US$142.7 trillion - considerably more than the value of what humans produce each year. And according to an Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity Report, the annual value of insect pollination alone to the worldwide agriculture industry is valued at US$190 billion while as much as 25-50% of the US$1.1 trillion pharmaceutical market is derived from genetic resources. Our natural ecosystem is priceless.
Certainly for Oman, as we work to diversify and reinforce our economic base the opportunities presented by our genetic resources are considerable – these immensely valuable natural assets have the potential to create businesses, jobs, and wealth for our nation.
And now, more than ever, the work of Mawarid – protecting and conserving our precious genetic resources for the benefit of future generations and opening up opportunity derived from them, opportunity not just for the prosperity and development of Oman but for the progress of society, and the well-being of humankind - is of the utmost importance.