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Treaty on plant genetic resources “invaluable” to sustainable agriculture, biological diversity
ITPGRFA Secretary briefs 2nd Committee



October 30: Nearly 12 years after its adoption at the 31st Session of the FAO Conference, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) remains an “invaluable sister [accord]” to the landmark Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), said Treaty Secretary Shakeel Bhatti to Member States in a Thursday briefing on CBD implementation at UN headquarters.


Established in 2001 to promote the conservation and equitable use of plant genetic materials, ITPGRFA relies on three core provisions, explained Mr. Bhatti, via video-link, from the Treaty’s FAO-based Secretariat.


The first involves recognizing farmers’ “enormous contribution to encouraging the diversity of crops which feed the world”; the second establishes an innovative global system “providing farmers, plant breeders, and scientists with access to genetic material”.


The Treaty’s third provision, continued Mr. Bhatti, ensures that “recipients who derive benefits from the use of such resources, share them equitably with their [genetic materials’] countries of origin”. Such mechanisms help promote sustainable agriculture by creating a “virtuous, self-reinforcing cycle”, he added.


Thursday’s 2nd Committee Special Event also saw extensive presentations — by, respectively, CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Dias, WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry, and New York-based representatives of UNEP, UNESCO, UNDP, and UNCTAD — detailing efforts to implement the CBD.


“Biological diversity underpins ecosystem functions and is essential for human well-being. We must step-up our efforts to conserve it,” urged Wu Hongbo, keynote speaker and UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. The latest data support such exhortations.


According to CBD’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 report, for instance, a 2002 pledge by governments to achieve, by 2010, a “significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional, and national levels” is “decidedly off-track”. Meanwhile the five prime drivers of biodiversity loss — habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species, and climate change — are, the study also confirms, either “constant or increasing in intensity”, noted CBD’s Mr. Dias.


Such evidence, observed Venezuela’s representative, suggests that despite the preponderance of ITPGRFA, CBD, and other international treaties, the world is fighting a “losing battle, with enormous consequences for life on our planet”.


In December 2010, the General Assembly agreed to mark 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.

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