Meeting acknowledges the crucial role of plant genetic resources
Great progress made during the first meeting of Treaty’s governing body
21 June 2006, Rome - The first meeting of the governing body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was marked by a broad consensus among participating countries that safeguarding these resources plays a crucial role in ensuring the food supply of future generations, FAO said today.
The UN agency estimates that some three-quarters of the most important crops and forages have become extinct during the past hundred years. One of the main purposes of the Treaty is to conserve the remaining genetic diversity of cultivated plants for future generations.
"FAO is very satisfied with the outcome of the meeting. After years of negotiations, the Contracting Parties have concluded agreements that will now make it possible to implement the Treaty for the benefit of plant genetic resource donors and users alike," said Mr José Esquinas, Secretary of the Treaty.
Five days of intense negotiations
Some 350 representatives of 120 countries and the European Union gathered for the five-day meeting in Madrid (12-16 June), which was chaired by Mr Francisco Mombiela, Director-General of Agriculture of Spain's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Mr Esquinas emphasised that "the germplasm material transfer agreement, which governs access and benefit-sharing under the multilateral system is a major benchmark in international cooperation."
This agreement will provide users, particularly industry, with access to the germplasm of 64 specific crops, which account for 80% of the food consumed by humanity; if their requests for access are approved, users then agree to pay 1.1% of the revenues from the sale of any seeds of commercial varieties obtained from the genetic material. The income will be used for projects, programmes and activities that will be of benefit to poor countries.
Mr Esquinas also emphasised the contribution that the Treaty will make to attaining the UN Millennium Development Goals and to eradicating hunger.
During the meeting, delegates voiced their support for the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and agreed that the fund would operate under the general supervision of the governing body. Germany agreed to commit 1.5 million euro to the fund over the next five years, in addition to the over US$50 million already received from other sources.
The meeting participants also adopted a project aimed at ensuring that the collections of international agricultural research centres belonging to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), comprising over 600 000 samples of agricultural crop varieties, are conserved.
The Ministerial Segment and parallel events
A ministerial-level meeting was also convened and was attended by agricultural officials from more than 80 countries. They adopted a declaration pledging to fully implement the Treaty at the national level and to develop an international financial strategy to fund it.
Twenty or so parallel events dealing with a variety of issues, such as guaranteeing the right to food, farmers' rights, and boosting national capacities to manage plant genetic resources, were also held.
Mr Esquinas also stressed the support given by Spain, the excellent organization of the meeting and the spirit of cooperation among all participants.
The next meeting of the Treaty's governing body will be held in Rome, Italy, in the first half of 2007.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53963
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 52518
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