First meeting of treaty on genetic resources for agriculture opens today
Diouf: Madrid gathering a "historic event"
12 June 2006, Madrid – Representatives of 100 countries gathered today in the Spanish capital for a ceremony inaugurating the first-ever meeting of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, promoted by FAO.
The event was attended by María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, Spain's First Deputy Prime Minister, Elena Espinosa, Spain's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and other dignitaries.
"This is a historic event, crowning many years of hard work. A treaty of crucial importance to humanity has been brought into being," said Diouf, describing the treaty as "the first major international instrument of the 21st century and the third millennium."
Negotiated under the aegis of FAO, it entered into force as a legally-binding instrument in June 2004 after a long negotiation process that began in the 1970s. Currently the treaty has 104 signatory States.
"The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture are sine qua non conditions for food security and poverty eradication, particularly in the rural world," Diouf said, noting that currently some 854 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition worldwide, with a resulting annual death toll of 15 million human lives.
In his comments the FAO chief stressed that combating hunger and poverty should be the primary goals of international policies related to plant genetic resources. "This is an ethical imperative -- access to adequate food is a basic human right," he said.
From theory to practice
Diouf called on the governments present at today's inaugural to cooperate in order to ensure that the treaty lives up to its full potential as a tool for increasing food production and improving food quality. He added that the agreement allows for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from crop diversity and also serves as a mechanism for strengthening North-South cooperation.
At this first meeting of the treaty's governing body a number of major decisions regarding its implementation are on the table, including financial strategies, access to plant genetic resources and the rights of farmers to a share of the benefits deriving from their use.
Diouf also appealed to delegates attending the "Ministerial Segment" of the meeting, which starts on Tuesday 13 June, to marshal "the political will to make it possible to build up a productive and innovative future for the treaty," urging them to ensure that their national plans, programmes and legislation reflect its objectives and provisions as well as development assistance priorities.
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