6-Regulation: International Undertaking approved by FAO conference
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TITLE: International treaty on plant genetic resources for food and
agriculture approved by FAO conference
SOURCE: FAO, Italy, Press Release 01/81 C5
DATE: November 3, 2001
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
COMMENT by GRAIN: On 3 November, the renegotiation of the FAO International
Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources came to an end. The revised text is
called the "International Convention on Plant Genetic Resources for Food
and Agriculture". It was adopted through a vote: 116 countries in favour,
two countries abstaining (Japan and the USA).
The final round of negotiation last week was marked by the expected
controversies: whether the treaty would be subordinate to global trade
rules set by WTO, what it would allow for in terms of intellectual property
rights on genetic materials, and which crops would form part of the
"multilateral system" of access and benefit-sharing that it establishes.
The IPR provision that was finally agreed to says: "Recipients [of
germplasm] shall not claim any intellectual property or other rights that
limit the facilitated access to the plant genetic resources for food and
agriculture, or their genetic parts or components, in the form received
from the Multilateral System". The US, Japan, Canada and a few others tried
to get this deleted at the last minute, but they were outnumbered.
NGOs attending the Conference criticised the Convention's weaknesses and
ambiguities, but urged ratification to move forward in clarifying and
implementing its provisions.
GOING FURTHER (compiled by GRAIN)
"Earth Negotiations Bulletin", produced by the International Institute for
Sustainable Development, covered the final negotiations on a daily basis
from 30 October to 3 November 2001.
"International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture",
statement presented by public interest, non-profit civil society
organisations to the 31st FAO Conference, Rome, 3 November 2001.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, "First International Treaty of
the New Millenium Adopted in Rome; Challenges IPR and WTO", IATP Press
Release, Minneapolis, 4 November 2001. Request copy by email from
For a backgrounder, see GRAIN, "International Undertaking on Plant Genetic
Resources: The Final Stretch", October 2001.
INTERNATIONAL TREATY ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
APPROVED BY FAO CONFERENCE
Rome, 3 November 2001. - An International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
for Food and Agriculture approved today by the Conference of the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO), will ensure better use of plant genetic
diversity to meet the challenge of eradicating world hunger.
The Treaty was approved with 116 favourable votes and two abstentions.
There were no votes against.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
Agriculture is a unique comprehensive international agreement. It takes
into consideration the particular needs of farmers and plant breeders, and
aims to guarantee the future availability of the diversity of plant genetic
resources for food and agriculture on which they depend, and the fair and
equitable sharing of the benefits, FAO experts say.
The International Treaty is in harmony with the Convention on Biological
Diversity (CBD) which was adopted in 1992 as the first international
binding agreement covering biodiversity.
In 1994, the FAO initiated an inter-governmental negotiating process for
the revision of the 1983 International Undertaking on Plant Genetic
Resources for Food and Agriculture, in order to adopt it as a legally
binding agreement, in harmony with the CBD. The parties at this Convention
have recognized the distinct characteristics and problems of agro-
biodiversity and the need for specific solutions to be developed by FAO.
The long and complex negotiating process, which gave birth to the new
Treaty, has been led by Ambassador Fernando Gerbasi of Venezuela, Chairman
of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA).
This new legally binding international agreement - which will enter into
force when ratified by at least 40 States - provides a framework to ensure
access to plant genetic resources, and to related knowledge, technologies,
and internationally agreed funding. It also provides the agricultural
sector with a multilateral tool to promote cooperation and synergy with
other sectors, particularly with trade and the environment.
"The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
Agriculture is at the crossroads where agriculture, environment and trade
meet. It is a major international instrument reflecting the significance of
access and benefit sharing as the basis for continued and sustainable
utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture," FAO
Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf said.
"The approval by the FAO Conference of this International Treaty on Plant
Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a milestone in international
cooperation. It is the successful outcome of lengthy negotiations which
started in November 1994 among FAO's Member States," Dr. Diouf added.
The Treaty revises the previous International Undertaking, which was
adopted by the FAO Conference in 1983 as an instrument to promote
international harmony in matters regarding access to plant genetic
resources for food and agriculture. It recognized Farmers' Rights as being
complementary to plant Breeders' Rights.
One hundred and thirteen countries have adhered to the original
International Undertaking, which seeks to "ensure that plant genetic
resources of economic and/or social interest, particularly for agriculture,
will be explored, preserved, evaluated and made available for plant
breeding and scientific purposes."
The International Undertaking is monitored by FAO's CGRFA, a permanent
forum for debate created in 1983 and currently composed of 160 Member
Countries, which will now act as the Interim Committee for the new
International Treaty, until it enters into force. Mr. JosŽ Esquinas-
Alc‡zar, Secretary of the Commission, underlined "the technical, social,
economic, political and ethical issues which surround the conservation and
sustainable use of genetic resources."
Mr. Esquinas-Alc‡zar added that despite the approval of the International
Treaty, "an enormous task still lies ahead to implement the provisions of
the Treaty, in particular in view of the need to ensure that the genetic
resources and local technologies developed by generations of farmers are
complemented and enhanced by the new genetic technologies, and not
threatened or replaced by them."
The length of the negotiations reflects the difficulties in reaching
agreement on matters related to intellectual property rights and the list
of crops covered by the Treaty. However, the Treaty shows the wide
international commitment that both traditional and modern technologies
should be used to serve humanity, in particular to alleviate hunger and
promote sustainable development in developing countries.
For further information, please consult websites: http://www.fao.org/ag/
cgrfa/default.htm or contact Mr. JosŽ Esquinas-Alc‡zar, Secretary of the
FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (tel.:
0039.06.57054986; email: email@example.com). or FAO Media Relations
Branch at tel.: +39.06.5705 2232
Aditional information: Making plant genetic resources beneficial and
accessible for all http://www.fao.org/news/2001/011005-e.htm
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