International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The Multilateral System

What is the Multilateral System?

The International Treaty's truly innovative solution to access and benefit-sharing is its declaration that 64 of our most important crops. These are crops that together account for 80 percent of all human consumption derived from plants. In 2018, it comprised a pool of genetic resources of 2.5 million accessions accessible to all users. On joining the International Treaty, countries agree to make their genetic diversity and related information about the crops stored in their public genebanks available to all through the Multilateral System (MLS).

Users of the Multilateral System received by 2020 more than 5,6 material for research training and breeding. This  mechanism gives scientific institutions, farmers, plant breeders and the private sector, the opportunity to work with, and potentially to improve, the materials stored in genebanks or used in breeding programmes. By facilitating research, innovation and exchange of information without restrictions through its Global Information System, the International Treaty cuts down on the costly and time-consuming need for breeders to negotiate contracts with individual genebanks.

The Multilateral System sets up opportunities for developing and developed countries that share technical know-how to use their materials and laboratories to build on what the farmers in developing countries have accomplished in their fields.

Facilitated access to genetic material available in genebanks or being part of a research programme is done using a standard contract, the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) (LINK to SMTA PAGE). These can include collections of local seeds kept in small refrigeration units of research labs, national seed collections housed in government ministries or research center collections that contain all known varieties of a crop from around the world.

Under the International Treaty's Multilateral System, collections of local, national and international genebanks that are in the public domain and under the direct control of Contracting Parties share a set of efficient rules of facilitated access for the established purposes and with the exclusion of industrial or pharmaceutical applications. This also includes the vast collections of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)

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