INTERNATIONAL TECHNICAL CONFERENCE
ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES

Leipzig, Germany, 17-23 June 1996

LEIPZIG DECLARATION ON CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE UTILIZATION OF PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

1. In recognition of the essential importance of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, in particular for the food security of present and future generations, the representatives of one hundred and fifty States and fifty four Organizations have gathered together in Leipzig, at the invitation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at the Fourth International Technical Conference for Plant Genetic Resources. We have done so to assert and renew our commitment to the conservation and sustainable utilization of these resources and to the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, recognizing the desirability of sharing equitably benefits arising from the use of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices relevant to the conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and their sustainable use. We are convinced that these efforts can be an essential contribution to achieving the objectives, and facilitating implementation of, the Convention on Biological Diversity and Agenda 21.

2. Recognizing that states have sovereign rights over their plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, we also confirm our common and individual responsibilities in respect of these resources.

3. These resources are the basis of natural and directed evolution in the plant species most critical to the survival and well-being of human beings. All countries require plant genetic resources if they are to increase food supplies and agricultural production sustainably and meet the related challenges of changes in the environment, including climate change. We are conscious of the intrinsic value of this biological diversity and of its ecological, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, and aesthetic importance.

4 Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are the product of natural evolution and human intervention. We acknowledge the roles played by generations of men and women farmers and plant breeders, and by indigenous and local communities, in conserving and improving plant genetic resources. Through their efforts, much has been, and is still being, accomplished to collect, conserve, improve and sustainably use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

5. We are aware, however, of the serious threats to the security of plant genetic resources and acknowledge that efforts to conserve, develop, and sustainably use genetic diversity should be improved. This diversity is being lost in the fields and other ecosystems of virtually all countries, even in genebanks. Though the number of genebanks has increased rapidly in recent decades, many cannot meet minimum international standards. An alarmingly high number of stored accessions are in need of regeneration, indicating that much of the material collected and conserved in the past is now endangered.

6. Major gaps and weaknesses exist in national and international capacity to conserve, characterize, evaluate, and sustainably use plant genetic resources to increase world food security and contribute to sustainable development. The crucial linkage between conservation and utilization should be improved. Existing diversity in crop species is not used to the extent possible for increased food production or for improving the sustainability of production systems. Institutional capacity, structures and programmes should be reviewed to address these deficiencies. It is necessary to strengthen national capabilities, particularly in developing countries.

7. We recognize the interdependence of countries and peoples regarding plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Access to and the sharing of both genetic resources and technologies are essential for meeting world food security and needs of the growing world population, and must be facilitated. Such access to and sharing of technologies with developing countries should be provided and/or facilitated under fair and most favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed to by all parties to the transaction. In the case of technology subject to patents and other intellectual property rights, access and transfer of technology should be provided on terms which recognize and are consistent with the adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights. We affirm the need to promote international and regional cooperation among countries, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

8. In particular, we acknowledge the pressing need to sustain existing ex situ collections and in situ habitats of plant genetic resources. It is important that this diversity be made more useful and valuable to breeders, farmers, and indigenous and local communities, by providing better and more accessible documentation. We recognize the need for substantial and long-term support and incentives for national and international plant breeding programmes, including initiatives to adapt and enhance genetic materials for further development by plant breeders. We call for a new and more productive partnership between scientists and farmers to build upon the ongoing efforts of farmers to manage and improve their plant genetic resources, especially in marginal areas.

9. Our primary objective must be to enhance world food security through conserving and sustainably using plant genetic resources. This will require integrated approaches combining the best of traditional knowledge and modern technologies. Means are needed to identify, increase, and share fairly and equitably the benefits derived from the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.

10. At the Fourth International Technical Conference for Plant Genetic Resources, to help fulfil our objectives, we have adopted a Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This Plan provides a coherent framework for activities in the field of in situ and ex situ conservation, in sustainable utilization of plant genetic resources, as well as in institution- and capacity-building. It will contribute to creating synergies among on-going activities, as well as more efficient use of available resources. We are convinced of the utmost importance of long-term national commitments to integrated national plans and programmes, and for indispensable national, regional and international cooperation.

11. This Global Plan of Action is an important element of the FAO Global System for Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources. The Global System presently includes, amongst other elements, an International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources currently under revision. We believe it important to complete the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources and to adjust the Global System, in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

12. We undertake to honour our commitments by taking the necessary steps to implement the Global Plan of Action in accordance with our national capacities.

13. We have gathered in Leipzig, aware of our responsibilities and the difficulties ahead, but confident that progress can and should be achieved. We stress the need for integrating the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in agricultural policy as an essential element for food security. We invite attention to be paid to the Global Plan of Action at the World Food Summit, to be held in November 1996. We invite all people to join us in our common cause.

Adopted this 23rd day of June, 1996.