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International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a comprehensive international agreement which aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world's plant genetic resources, as well as the fair use and equitable benefit sharing[?], in harmony with Convention on Biological Diversity. It also recognises the Farmers’ Rights[?] to freely access genetic resources, to use and save seeds, under national laws.

The Treaty will implement a Multilateral System of access to a list of 64 of the most important food and forage crops essential for food security and interdependence for those countries that ratify the treaty.
It includes a funding mechanism that receives shares arising from the commercial utilization of plant genetic resources under the system.
The treaty is monitored by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA[?]) of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Some believe it is aimed at being an example of responsible global governance, ensuring the resources to be kept in public domain, to act as an insurance against any future adversity.

Table of contents

Treaty mechanisms

The Treaty has been under negotiation for 7 years. A previous attempt at it, the IU[?] or International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, was agreed on in 1981. However, the IU was relying on the principle of genetic resources being common heritage of humanity. The Convention on Biological Diversity (1993) brought genetic resources under juridiction of national government, thus outdating the IU.

The new Treaty was approved during the FAO Conference (31th Session resolution 3/2001) in November 2001, with 116 votes and 2 abstentions (USA and Japan). In accordance with its Article 25, it was opened to signature until 4th of November 2002 by all members of FAO or any state member of the United Nations or of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It was subject to ratification, acceptance or approval (Article 26), by all members as defined beneath (Article 25).

The Treaty on Plant Genetic Resource was open to accession once closed to signature (Article 27), i.e., on the 4th of November 2002. The Treaty on Plant Genetic Resource will enter into force, once closed to signature, 90 days after ratification by at least 40 countries, among which at least 20 are Members of the FAO (Article 28). 77 countries and the European Union have already signed the treaty on the 6th of November.

Once ratified, the Treaty’s Governing Body will take decisions on how the agreement is implemented. For example, it will consider capacity-building, technology transfer[?] or payment for fair share of commercial benefits.


Plant genetic resources are essential to a sustainable agriculture and food security. FAO estimates humans have used some 10 000 species for food throughout history. This diversity of use has drastically been reduces, as no more than 120 cultivated species provide around 90% of food nowadays. Besides, a lot of the biodiversity of these cultivated species has been lost in the past 100 years.
Many hope this new and much awaited Treaty will make a difference.

Some fear, however, that financial interests might prevent safeguarding of livelihood, promotion of food security, biodiversity-rich farming under control of local communities, and impleming Farmers' Rights[?].
Critics say many of the central issues are unresolved or open to interpretation. Some of the points raised are

  • to which extent intellectual property rights will be allowed within the treaty rules : some argue an agreement aiming at the promotion to genetic resources should not allow restrictive property rights;

  • to which extent the farmers and communities will be allowed to freely use, exchange and breed the seeds, and which enforcement procedure will be used by national governments to ensure principles will be respected;

  • how will the benefits over the commercial use of genetic material be shared, in terms of amount, form and conditions.

  • the limited number of food crops, forage and their relatives included in the treaty. Soya, sugar cane, oil palm and groundnut are among important crops missing from the list.

Participants countries

Signature : Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh , Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, European Community, Finland, France, Gabon, Ghana, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Ratification : Canada, Eritrea, Ghana, India, Jordan, Malawi, Sudan

Acceptance : Cambodia

Approval : Guinea

See also

International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture[?] -- Basmati rice[?] -- World Trade Organisation -- biopiracy -- seedbank

External links

http://www.ukabc.org (http://www.ukabc.org/iu2.htm)
http://www.fao.org (http://www.fao.org)

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