Rome, 28 March 2002- Morocco has signed the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, as a first step in the ratification process. Eleven countries have now signed the Treaty since it was adopted by the FAO Conference last November: Venezuela, Mexico and Haiti, in the Latin America and Caribbean region, and Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Jordan, Mali and Namibia in Africa. Morocco is the first North-African signatory.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a legally binding international agreement. It aims to ensure the conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, their sustainable use, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of these genetic resources, including benefits derived from commercial use. The treaty will enter into force when ratified by 40 countries.

Morocco has for many years supported the negotiations on the Treaty in the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. "Morocco and the Magreb region in general have important genetic resources which contribute to food security throughout the world," said Ambassador Aziz Mekouar of Morocco, during the signing ceremony. "We, therefore, hope to see the new Treaty enter into force in the very near future."

FAO's Director General, Dr. Jacques Diouf, has appealed to all countries to ratify the Treaty quickly, if possible before the World Food Summit: five years later, scheduled for 10-13 June 2002 in Rome.