Final Remarks

The Treaty is the outcome of many years of intense negotiations in FAO's intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, to revise the voluntary International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. As the 30th Session of the Conference of the FAO noted, these negotiations were at the meeting point between agriculture, the environment and commerce. The Conference agreed that there should be consistency and synergy in the agreements being developed in these different The innovative provisions of the Treaty provide for facilitated access to PGFRA and an agreed way of benefit-sharing, without deriving these benefits from individual negotiations, on a case-by-case basis, between the provider and the user of these resources. They provide for both access and benefit-sharing to be through multilateral arrangements. This avoids the high transaction costs that such bilateral contracts involve, which are hard to justify in the context of plant breeding, which has for thousands of years been characterized by repetitive exchange, crossing, selection, and local adaptation of the intraspecific genetic resources of crops, within and between countries and regions. This ensures that plant breeders, in both the public and private sectors, can have access to the widest possible range of the resources crucial for world food security. This will benefit consumers, by providing a stream of improved and varied agricultural products, and it will benefit the seed and biotechnology industries, by providing an agreed international framework, within which to plan their investments. It also provides a firm international framework for IARCs of the CGIAR and other international organizations, whereby they hold PGRFA in trust, under the IT.

The IT and other relevant international agreements need to be fully enforced at the national level. The development of national legislation for implementation of their provisions will be essential in deterring genetic erosion, protecting indigenous germplasm and Farmers' Rights, facilitating access to genetic resources for food and agriculture, and ensuring benefit sharing.

Political and economic support for implementation of these agreements can be stimulated, if the public is informed about the importance of genetic diversity and the dangers of its depletion, and encouraged to act to stop genetic erosion. It should not be forgotten, however, that genetic erosion is but one consequence of man's abusive exploitation of the planet's natural resources, which has broken the balance of many ecosystems and brought about an increasing degradation of the biosphere. Safeguarding genetic resources by protecting them ex situ or in situ is crucial, if the process that has been unleashed is to be reversed, or controlled, at all. The fundamental problem remains man's lack of respect for the rest of nature, and any lasting solution will have to involve establishing a new relationship with our small planet, in full understanding and recognition of its limitations and fragility. If humanity is to have a future, it is imperative that children learn this in primary schools, and that adults make it part of their life.

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