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. The Treaty entered into force in 2004, after being ratified by 40 governments.

It aims to guarantee food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world's plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), as well as the fair and equitable benefit-sharing arising from its use. It also recognizes Farmers' Rights, subject to national laws to: a) the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to PGRFA; b) the right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilisation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture; and c) the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA. The Treaty establishes the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing to facilitate plant germplasm exchanges and benefit sharing through Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA).

This legally-binding Treaty covers all plant genetic resources relevant for food and agriculture. It is in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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 recognizes the enormous contributions 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.

The Commission and the Treaty’s Governing Body contribute in different, but mutually supportive, ways to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.

The Commission and the Treaty’s Governing Body cooperate to monitor threats to identify priority actions for the future.

In 2009, the Commission adopted the Joint Statement of Intent for Cooperation between the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. It also took note of Resolution 7/2009 of the Governing Body of the International Treaty, and reaffirmed its willingness to continue cooperating with the Governing Body in matters of common interest, especially in the context of its Multi-Year Programme of Work.