Relevant provisions of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

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On November 3, 2001, the 31st Session of the Conference of the FAO adopted, by consensus and as a binding international agreement, the ITPGRFA, which entered into force on June 29, 2004.

The text of the Treaty and related information are available on the Internet at http://www.fao.org/ag/cgrfa.

The Treaty's objectives as stated in Article 1, are "the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the CBD, for sustainable agriculture and food security." Article 3 establishes that its scope "relates to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture." For the first time in a binding international agreement, the Treaty makes provision for Farmers' Rights, in recognition of the collective innovation on which agriculture is based.

10 It is available on the Internet at ftp://ext-ftp.fao.org/waicent/pub/cgrfa8/GS/gpaE.pdf.

Under Article 9, contracting parties to the Treaty are called upon to take measures to protect and promote Farmers' Rights. Specific measures called for include the protection of traditional knowledge, the right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilization of PGRFA; and the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA.

A further important and innovative part of the Treaty is contained in Articles 10 to 13 (Part IV), which establish a Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-Sharing, which applies to a list of 64 crops, selected according to criteria of food security and interdependence. The crops in question cover about 80% of the world's food calorie intake from plants. Under this part of the Treaty, contracting parties agreed to include the plant genetic resources of these crops that are under their management and control and in the public domain into the multilateral system. In addition, they will encourage natural and legal persons within their jurisdiction to include the plant genetic resources they hold into the multilateral system. The ex situ collections of the International Agricultural Research Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) will also be brought into the Multilateral System, through agreements with the Governing Body.

The multilateral system is designed to provide access to PGRFA solely for the purpose of utilization and conservation for research, breeding and training for food and agriculture, provided that "such purpose does not include chemical, pharmaceutical and/or other nonfood/feed industrial uses" (Article 12.3a). Recipients of materials from the multilateral system cannot claim any intellectual property or other rights that would limit access to the resource or their genetic parts and components, in the form that it is received from the system. Access to the materials is to be provided under a standard material transfer agreement, which has yet to be developed by the Governing Body of the Treaty.

Benefit-sharing takes several forms under the multilateral system. One benefit which is shared among all contracting parties is facilitated access to the resources. Other benefits provided are information sharing, as well as access and transfer of technology. The latter are to be shared through measures such as:

"the establishment and maintenance of, and participation in, crop-based thematic groups on utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, all types of partnership in research and development and in commercial joint ventures relating to the material received, human resource development, and effective access to research facilities" (Article 13.2.b).

Monetary benefits from the commercialization of resources accessed under the multilateral system are also to be shared through payments of an equitable share of the overall benefit to an international funding mechanism which will support conservation and sustainable utilization of PGRFA. Agreements on how an equitable share of the benefits is to be calculated and how the funding mechanism is to be managed are yet to be developed by the Governing Body of the Treaty.

Following its adoption by the FAO Conference, other universal fora have expressed unanimous support for the ITPGRFA:

The Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (April 719, 2002, The Hague), in its Ministerial Declaration, which was agreed by the delegations of 176 countries, including some 130 Ministers, "urged all States to ratify and fully implement [...] the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture." The Declaration adopted by the World Food Summit five years later (10-13 June 2002, Rome) recognizes "the importance of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in support of food security objective," and calls "on all countries that have not yet done so to consider signing and ratifying the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in order that it enter into force as soon as possible." In the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, countries which were represented at the highest level in the World Summit on Sustainable Development (August 26-September 4, 2002) stated that they committed themselves to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, in which they "invite countries that have not done so to ratify the international Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture."

The adoption of the Treaty marks a milestone in international cooperation. It entered into force after 40 governments ratified it. Governments that have ratified it make up its Governing Body. At its first meeting, likely to be held in 2005, this Governing Body will address important questions such as the level, form, and manner of monetary payments on commercialization, a standard Material Transfer Agreement for plant genetic resources, mechanisms to promote compliance with the Treaty, and the funding strategy.

An up-to-date listing of governments that have signed and ratified the Treaty is available on the Internet at http://www.fao.org/Legal/ treaties/treaty-e.htm.

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