Easy-SMTA: Transferring genetic resources with online contracts


Every day more than 800 transfers of seeds on average are made worldwide for research, training and breeding purposes within the global gene pool of FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Each of these transfers travels under a standard contract negotiated by Member States that can now be concluded online.

The transfer of seeds and other planting material for food and agriculture is of utmost importance to facilitate research and to meet the challenges of fighting against pest diseases, adapting to the changing climate and increasing food production.

Since early September 2012, a new user-friendly information system called EASY-SMTA (http://mls.planttreaty.org), allows users to generate online, and in six languages, the Standard Material Transfer Agreements (SMTA) for the transfer of seeds and forages, without the need of negotiating a new agreement each time a transfer is made.

The System also assists users, in particular the providers of the crop material, to report online on each transaction to a central database, making unnecessary the need to transmit paper copies and reducing considerably the time and the efforts invested on this task.

Just a few days after the launching of the system, a total of 500 000 samples were registered as transferred with the standard contract, thanks also to a series of agreed procedures and automated connections between the central reporting database and national and international genebanks. Among those, we find reports from Germany, Canada and Spain, as well as those of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

"Easy-SMTA is of voluntary use and offers users new practical solutions to improve efficiency, such as the function to conclude contracts online", said Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the Governing Body of the International Treaty.

The functions of the system have been designed to respond, mainly, to the needs of small and medium seed providers, and a complete set of documentation and other useful material have also been published.

An operational gene pool
The collections of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) collections hold at least 50 percent of all materials in the Treaty’s gene pool and they also transfer a great number of samples. For example, between August 2008 and November 2009, these centres released 608,664 samples of accessions under standard contracts, and received 41 902. Moreover, 21 countries of the European Region reported that they had issued 2 687 standard contracts, covering 318 001 samples. Several Contracting Parties outside the gene pool have also transferred a large number of seeds and other planting material with the standard contract as an independent policy decision.