Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME ADDRESS

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

delivered at the

1st Regional Meeting of the Project
Enhancing Understanding and Implementation of the ITPGRFA

Bangkok, Thailand
27 to 28 May 2013

 

Mr Tetsuya Murakami, First Secretary, Japan Embassy in Thailand
Respected resource persons,
Distinguished participants,
My colleagues from Hqs and RAP,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Very good morning to all of you!

I am extremely happy to be here to a say few words in the opening ceremony of this very important 1st Regional Meeting of the project “Enhancing Understanding of the Implementation of ITPGRFA”. First of all, I would like thank the government of Japan for providing funds to implement this three years (2012-2015) project which will greatly help in understanding the importance of this Treaty and continue building national capacities on this topic in Asia.

I would like to welcome all of you in this meeting. I thank the representatives of the government of Japan for finding and technical support, especially Dr Kawabe, Dr Vaughan  and other officers of NIAS for providing support and to be with us today. FAO attaches high priority to this project and ensured that highly qualified resource persons are present here to steer and contribute to technical discussions. FAO Regional office has been closely working with FAO, HQ on this issue. I welcome all of you again.

This project is designed to enhance our understanding of one of the most important key topics which would have a great influence to future food security. That is sustainable exchange and use of plant genetic resources. Why it is so important in the current context of development? First of all productivity growth rates of major food crops have either stagnated or are declining in different parts of the world. It is coupled with negative consequences of climate changes that are posing increasing threats to realizing the yield potential of the existing popular varieties. It is happening at a time when developing countries, as FAO estimates show, face the challenge of increasing their food production by 77 percent by the year 2050, 91 percent worldwide.  

As we all know, for both yield stagnation or decline and climate change, we have to find solutions that include developing varieties. In this situation availability and sharing of suitable germplasms is of crucial importance. 

Dear Participants,

The main objective of the project is to brief participating countries on the activities of the project, raise awareness of the importance of the treaty,  identify scope of work and cooperation among countries, and develop country work plan. It is expected that project will have following three expected outputs:

  1. Awareness among stakeholders regarding importance and implementation of the Treaty;
  2. Scope of regional cooperation on exchange and use of  PGRFA materials identified; and,
  3. Detail country work plan in order to expedite the implementation of ITPGRFA in contracting countries  and capacity development of non-contracting countries to raise awareness of the importance of the Treaty developed.

Dear all,

Exchange of crops and their varieties, which has been going on since the birth of agriculture, from one region to another has played a significant role in enhancing global food security.

This is evident in the adoption of potato, chili, cassava, oil palm and other crops in Asia that originated in other continents. The point is the inter-connectedness of the world when it comes to food and the genetic resources needed to protect and increase food production. However, today some major food security crops are mainly grown in very few countries and are being produced in large scale under industrial agricultural production systems in those countries. This also means that vast areas of land are covered with a very few genotypes which are vulnerable to diseases and pests; hence is a food security issue.

Another contemporary issue is the restriction in free movement of germplasms from one country to another and from one region to another as a result of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues. This might impede to choice of appropriate germplasms to develop new varieties that address the challenges posed by climate change and yield decline. 

Dear Colleagues,

The International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has been developed to address the concerns of FAO member states regarding access to plant genetic resources and benefit sharing from their use. This Treaty can only work if all participate and follow the rules of the Treaty. At present in Asia most countries have joined, and I am glad to learn that Japan will soon be a party to the Treaty. But not all countries in Asia have joined yet and I want to encourage those countries to consider becoming parties to the Treaty.

As you all know, although, the treaty came into force in 2004, as of 30th April 2013, 129 countries (including EU) of the world agreed with the treaty, however, only 14 countries of Asia have ratified the treaty. It indicates that we have to do our best to convince members countries to be the part of the treaty. In this sense, today’s meeting is very important and timely.

On the other hand, becoming a Party to the Treaty is one point but it is also important that countries once party to the Treaty fully participate. Currently the vast majority of PGRFA that are distributed are material in the CG network of Genebanks rather than from country to country. Greater flows of germplasms between countries within the Treaty are necessary.

There is also unfinished business regarding the Treaty. The Treaty does not include all PGRFA, but only crops explicitly mentioned in Annex 1 to the treaty. Annex 1 does not include some important crops such as soybean and tomato. It is our view that the Treaty should be comprehensive both in terms of countries that are Party to the Treaty and also the coverage of PGRFA under its purview.

Finally, I would like to express once again our sincere gratitude to the representatives of the government of Japan,  NIAS, IRRI, Bioversity and FAO Hqs for having with us here. Our special thanks goes to Mr. Duncan for his continuous support to the project and I do hope it will continue.  

I firmly believe that with your support, project will be able to achieve above mentioned objectives and outcomes. 

Thank you again and wish you a pleasant stay in Bangkok.