Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture





History

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The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was established in 1983 to deal with issues related to plant genetic resources. In 1995, the FAO Conference broadened the Commission’s mandate to cover all components of biodiversity of relevance to food and agriculture.

The Commission provides the only permanent forum for governments to discuss and negotiate matters specifically relevant to biological diversity for food and agriculture. The Commission aims to reach international consensus on policies for the sustainable use and conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use.

Since its establishment, the Commission has overseen global assessments of the state of the world’s plant and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture and negotiated major international instruments, including the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Milestones in the History of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

1983

The FAO Conference adopts the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (Resolution 8/83). At the time of its adoption, the International Undertaking which also lays the foundation for the Commission is the only international instrument specifically dealing with genetic resources for food and agriculture.
The Commission is established  in accordance with Article VI.1 of the FAO Constitution (Resolution 9/83).
The development of the Global System on Plant Genetic Resources begins with the establishment of the Commission.

1989

The FAO Conference adopts an Agreed Interpretation of the International Undertaking (Resolution 4/89)  and a resolution on Farmers’ Rights (Resolution 5/89). By recognising that plant breeders’ rights are not inconsistent with the International Undertaking and simultaneously recognising Farmers’ Rights, the resolutions aim at achieving a balance between the rights of breeders (formal innovators) and farmers (informal innovators) and the rights of developing and developed countries.
The Commission calls for the development of The International Network of Ex Situ Collections under the Auspices of FAO, in line with the International Undertaking , because of lack of clarity regarding the legal situation of the ex situ collections.

1991

The FAO Conference recognises the sovereign rights of nations over their plant genetic resources (Resolution 3/91).
Recognising the importance of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, the Conference also agrees that a first State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture should be developed.

1992

Chapter 14 of Agenda 21, on promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development, calls for the strengthening of the FAO Global System on Plant Genetic Resources, and its adjustment in line with the outcome of negotiations on the Convention on Biological Diversity.
In adopting the agreed text of the Convention on Biological Diversity, countries adopt Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act, which recognises the need to seek solutions to outstanding matters concerning plant genetic resources, in particular: (a) access to ex situ collections not addressed by the Convention, and (b) the question of Farmers’ Rights. It was requested that these matters be addressed within FAO's forum.

1993

The FAO Conference requests the Commission to provide a forum for the negotiation among governments, for (a) the Revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity; (b) consideration of the issue of access on mutually agreed terms to plant genetic resources, including ex situ collections not addressed by the Convention; and (c) the issue of the realization of Farmers' Rights (Resolution 7/93).
The FAO Conference also adopts the International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer, developed by FAO and negotiated through the Commission.
The Commission endorses Genebank Standards, developed by an expert consultation in 1992, and requests for the preparation of a rolling Global Plan of Action on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in order to identify the technical and financial needs for ensuring conservation and promoting sustainable use of plant genetic resources.

1994

The negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking start in the First Extraordinary Session of the Commission.
Twelve centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and subsequently other institutions sign agreements with FAO, placing most of their collections (some 500 000 accessions) under the auspices of FAO. Through these agreements, the Centres agree to hold the designated germplasm "in trust for the benefit of the international community."  The agreements provide an interim solution, until the revision of the International Undertaking has been completed.

1995

The FAO Conference broadens the Commission’s mandate to cover all components of biodiversity of relevance to food and agriculture. It renames the Commission the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Resolution 3/95). 

1996

FAO launches The State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture  developed through a participatory, country-driven process under the guidance of the Commission. The International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources , held in Leipzig, Germany, welcomes the report as the first comprehensive worldwide assessment of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The Conference also adopts the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, negotiated by the Commission, and the Leipzig Declaration.

1997

The Commission establishes, as “sectoral working groups”, the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to deal with specific matters in their areas of expertise.

1999

After numerous negotiating sessions, the Commission, at its Eighth Regular Session, decides to continue negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking in a Contact Group. Between 1999 and 2001 the Contact Group holds six meetings.
The Commission also agrees that FAO should coordinate the preparation of a country-driven report on The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

2001

After seven years of negotiations in the Commission, the FAO Conference adopts the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Resolution 3/2001). This legally binding treaty covers all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The Treaty recognises Farmers’ Rights and establishes a Multilateral System to facilitate access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and to share the benefits derived from their use in a fair and equitable way.

2002

Between 2002 and 2006, the Commission acts as the Interim Committee for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The Interim Committee initiates negotiations of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement, the Treaty’s Funding Strategy, Financial Rules, Rules of Procedure and procedures and mechanisms to promote compliance.

2004

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture  enters into force on 29 June 2004.
The Commission requests the Secretariat to prepare an analysis of the status and needs of the different sectors of genetic resources for food and agriculture, including cross-sectoral matters, with the aim to adopt a Multi-Year Programme of Work, at its Eleventh Regular Session.

2006

The first session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is held in Madrid, Spain.

In accordance with Article 15 of the International Treaty, 11 Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and other international collections place their ex situ genebank collections under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The Article 15 agreements  replace the former agreements concluded between the Centres and FAO in 1994.

2007

FAO launches The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture  developed through a participatory, country-driven process under the guidance of the Commission. The International Technical Conference on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, held in Interlaken, Switzerland, welcomes the report and adopts the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, negotiated by the Commission, and the Interlaken Declaration.
The Commission adopts its Multi-Year Programme of Work, a rolling 10-year work plan covering the totality of biodiversity for food and agriculture.
The FAO Conference welcomes the Global Plan of Action and the Interlaken Declaration as milestones in international efforts to promote the sustainable use, development and conservation of animal genetic resources. The Conference also endorses the Commission’s Multi-Year Programme of Work and requests the Commission to oversee and assess the implementation of the Global Plan of Action (Resolution 12/2007).

2009

The FAO Conference adopts Resolution 18/2009 prepared by the Commission at its Twelfth Regular Session. The resolution stresses the special nature of genetic resources for food and agriculture in the context of the negotiations of the International Regime on Access and Benefit-sharing of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Conference also welcomes the outcomes of the Commission Twelfth Regular Session, including the Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the Strategic Plan 2010-2017 for the implementation of the Multi-Year Programme of Work, and the Funding Strategy for the implementation of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources.

In view of preparations of the State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources, the Commission establishes the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Forest Genetic Resources


2011

The FAO Council adopts the Second Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, as agreed by the Commission.

FAO announces the first call for project proposals for funding though the Commission’s Funding Strategy for the implementation of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources. After a thorough review and selection process, thirteen project proposals, involving thirty countries, receive funding (2011-2012).

In regard to cross-sectorial matters, the Commission establishes an Ad Hoc Technical Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing for Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, reaffirms its lead role in the development and use of targets and indicators for biodiversity for food and agriculture and agrees on the need for a roadmap on climate change and genetic resources for food and agriculture.