FAO provides intergovernmental fora where biodiversity-related policy is discussed and relevant agreements are negotiated and adopted. The continuous dialogue facilitated by FAO’s intergovernmental fora has proven useful not just for the food and agriculture sectors, but has often triggered synergies and successful cooperation among sectors.
FAO’s achievements in this area include:
- the preparation of assessments on the state of the world’s genetic resources for food and agriculture,
- the development and support to the implementation of international frameworks and instruments, including the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the International Plant Protection Convention,
- the development of cross-sectoral activities on access and benefit-sharing for genetic resources for food and agriculture,
- the support to the development and implementation of work programmes, including of those established by Governments under the Convention on Biological Diversity,
- the promotion of the ecosystem approach in agriculture (including sustainable production intensification, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry).
Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) provides the only permanent forum for governments to discuss and negotiate matters specifically relevant to biological diversity for food and agriculture. The Commission aims to reach international consensus on policies for the sustainable use and conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use.
Since its establishment, the Commission has overseen global assessments of the state of the world’s plant and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture and negotiated major international instruments, including the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
The Commission has three intergovernmental subsidiary bodies:
- Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
- Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
- Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Forest Genetic Resources
Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
After seven years of negotiations in the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the FAO Conference adopted the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in November 2001. This legally-binding Treaty covers all plant genetic resources relevant for food and agriculture. It is in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Treaty’s objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use. No country is self-sufficient in plant genetic resources, and international cooperation and exchange of genetic resources are therefore of pivotal importance and necessary for food security.
Through the Treaty, countries have agreed to establish a Multilateral System to facilitate access to key plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and to share the benefits derived from that access in a fair and equitable way. The Treaty also recognises the enormous contribution that farmers and their communities have made and continue to make to the conservation and development of plant genetic resources. This is the basis for Farmers' Rights, which include the protection of traditional knowledge, and the right to participate equitably in benefit-sharing and in national decision-making about plant genetic resources. It gives governments the responsibility for implementing these rights.
Commission on Phytosanitary Measures
The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is a multilateral treaty for plant protection to which 173 governments currently adhere (as of July 2010). The IPPC came into force in 1952 and was amended once in 1979 and again in 1997. The IPPC is governed by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, which was established with them amendment of the IPPC in 1997. The members of the Commission are the contracting parties to the Convention and are responsible for implementing the work programme of standards development, information exchange and capacity building.
The purpose of the IPPC is to secure common and effective action to prevent the spread and introduction of pests of plants and plant products and to promote measures for their control. The threat to biodiversity from such alien and invasive species (be they plant, animal or other) is considered second only to that of habitat loss. Whether introduced deliberately or unintentionally, many of these once established may out-compete native species and take over their new environment.
The Convention provides a framework and forum for international co-operation, harmonisation and technical exchange in collaboration with regional and national plant protection organisations. The IPPC also plays a vital role in trade as it is the organisation recognised by the World Trade Organisation in the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures as the source for international standards for the phytosanitary measures affecting trade.
Although the IPPC has strong implications for international trade, it has international co-operation for plant protection as its focus. Its application to plants is not limited only to the protection of cultivated plants or direct damage from pests. The scope of the Convention extends to the protection of cultivated and natural flora as well as plant products, and includes both direct and indirect damage by pests.