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International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The Multilateral System

What is the Multilateral System?

The Treaty's truly innovative solution to access and benefit-sharing is its declaration that 64 of our most important crops - crops that together account for 80 percent of all human consumption - will comprise a pool of genetic resources that are accessible to everyone. On ratifying the Treaty, countries agree to make their genetic diversity and related information about the crops stored in their gene banks available to all through the Multilateral System (MLS).

This gives scientific institutions and private sector plant breeders the opportunity to work with, and potentially to improve, the materials stored in gene banks or even crops growing in fields. By facilitating research, innovation and exchange of information without restrictions, this cuts down on the costly and time consuming need for breeders to negotiate contracts with individual gene banks.

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

Access

Access to genetic materials is through the collections in the world's gene banks. 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 Treaty and its Multilateral system, collections of local, national and international gene banks that are in the public domain and under the direct control of Contracting Parties share a set of efficient rules of faciliated access. This includes the vast collections of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a consortium of 15 international research centers.

In addition, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a complementary funding mechanism to that established by the Treaty, is committed to raise the funds that will endow the gene banks and ensure their continued viability.

Benefit Sharing

Those who access genetic materials through the Multilateral System agree that they will freely share any new developments with others for further research or, if they want to keep the developments to themselves, they agree to pay a percentage of any commercial benefits they derive from their research into a common fund to support conservation and further development of agriculture in the developing world.  The fund was established in 2008.

Benefits of the Multilateral System

Benefits of the Multilateral System

One of the core objectives of the Treaty, as described in Article 1, is to ensure a fair and equitable sharing of the benefits that are derived from the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. As the Multilateral System contains the key operative elements of the Treaty, benefit sharing becomes an important element of the System that is integral to the process of access, as described in Article 10.

The provision of benefits under the Treaty goes well beyond the Multilateral System, as can be seen by various references to technical assistance and cooperation in several articles of the text. However, the Treaty’s central benefit sharing provisions are concentrated in Article 13. There are various elements to benefit sharing under this Article and these have already been developed significantly by the Governing Body and the Secretary, with a first round of grants being made under the Funding Strategy at the Third Session of the Governing Body in 2009.

Monetary Benefits:

In accordance with the terms and conditions of the SMTA:

  • recipients pay an equitable share of financial benefits into the Treaty’s Benefit-sharing Fund whenever a commercialized product resulting from material obtained from the Multilateral System is not freely available for further research and breeding.
  • these funds are complemented with voluntary contributions from countries, international foundations and the private sector.
  • the funds that accumulate in the Benefit-sharing Fund flow primarily to farmers in developing countries who use and conserve crop diversity.

Non-monetary Benefits

The Treaty also foresees the sharing of non-monetary benefits from the Multilateral System in the form of:

  • exchange of information: making available information such as catalogues and inventories of crop diversity and results of technical, scientific and socio-economic research, for example, research related to characterization, evaluation and utilization of agricultural crops.
  • technology transfer: facilitating access by developing countries to technologies for the conservation, characterization, evaluation and use of crop diversity under the Multilateral System. The Treaty encourages all types of partnerships in research and development and in commercial joint ventures, especially relating to the material received, to human resource development, and to effective access to research facilities.
  • capacity building: support capacity building through:
    • programmes for scientific and technical education and training;
    • research facilities in developing countries, and
    • scientific research in developing countries in cooperation with national institutions.

Annex I: List of crops covered under the Multilateral System

Annex I: List of crops covered under the Multilateral System

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Food crops

Crop

Genus

Observations

Breadfruit

Artocarpus

Breadfruit only.

Asparagus

Asparagus

 

Oat

Avena

 

Beet

Beta

 

Brassica complex

Brassica et al.

Genera included are: Brassica, Armoracia, Barbarea, Camelina, Crambe, Diplotaxis, Eruca, Isatis, Lepidium, Raphanobrassica, Raphanus, Rorippa, andSinapis. This comprises oilseed and vegetable crops such as cabbage, rapeseed, mustard, cress, rocket, radish, and turnip. The species Lepidium meyenii(maca) is excluded.

Pigeon Pea

Cajanus

 

Chickpea

Cicer

 

Citrus

Citrus

Genera Poncirus and Fortunella are included as root stock.

Coconut

Cocos

 

Major aroids

Colocasia, Xanthosoma

Major aroids include taro, cocoyam, dasheen and tannia.

Carrot

Daucus

 

Yams

Dioscorea

 

Finger Millet

Eleusine

 

Strawberry

Fragaria

 

Sunflower

Helianthus

 

Barley

Hordeum

 

Sweet Potato

Ipomoea

 

Grass pea

Lathyrus

 

Lentil

Lens

 

Apple

Malus

 

Cassava

Manihot

Manihot esculenta only.

Banana / Plantain

Musa

Except Musa textilis.

Rice

Oryza

 

Pearl Millet

Pennisetum

 

Beans

Phaseolus

Except Phaseolus polyanthus.

Pea

Pisum

 

Rye

Secale

 

Potato

Solanum

Section tuberosa included, except Solanum phureja.

Eggplant

Solanum

Section melongena included.

Sorghum

Sorghum

 

Triticale

Triticosecale

 

Wheat

Triticum et al.

Including Agropyron, Elymus, and Secale.

Faba Bean / Vetch

Vicia

 

Cowpea et al.

Vigna

 

Maize

Zea

Excluding Zea perennis, Zea diploperennis, and Zea luxurians.

Forages

 Genera

Species

 LEGUME FORAGES

 

Astragalus

chinensis, cicer, arenarius

Canavalia

ensiformis

Coronilla

varia

Hedysarum

coronarium

Lathyrus

cicera, ciliolatus, hirsutus, ochrus, odoratus, sativus

Lespedeza

cuneata, striata, stipulacea

Lotus

corniculatus, subbiflorus, uliginosus

Lupinus

albus, angustifolius, luteus

Medicago

arborea, falcata, sativa, scutellata, rigidula, truncatula

Melilotus

albus, officinalis

Onobrychis

viciifolia

Ornithopus

sativus

Prosopis

affinis, alba, chilensis, nigra, pallida

Pueraria

phaseoloides

Trifolium

alexandrinum, alpestre, ambiguum, angustifolium, arvense, agrocicerum, hybridum, incarnatum, pratense, repens, resupinatum, rueppellianum, semipilosum, subterraneum, vesiculosum

 GRASS FORAGES

 

Andropogon

gayanus

Agropyron

cristatum, desertorum

Agrostis

stolonifera, tenuis

Alopecurus

pratensis

Arrhenatherum

elatius

Dactylis

glomerata

Festuca

arundinacea, gigantea, heterophylla, ovina, pratensis, rubra

Lolium

hybridum, multiflorum, perenne, rigidum, temulentum

Phalaris

aquatica, arundinacea

Phleum

pratense

Poa

alpina, annua, pratensis

Tripsacum

laxum

 OTHER FORAGES

 

Atriplex

halimus, nummularia

Salsola

vermiculata

Agreements concluded under Article 15

Agreements concluded under Article 15

Article 15 of the International Treaty states that Contracting Parties to the Treaty call upon the International Agricultural Research Centres (IARCs) to conclude agreements with the Governing Body of the Treaty with regard to ex situ collections. Most of these agreements were signed with the IARCs of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in 2006. Additional agreements were concluded with other centres in 2007 and 2009.

The IARCs alone collectively hold 693,752 accessions which form part of the Multilateral System. The collections of these international institutions still form, by far, the largest group of resources currently known to be in the Multilateral System, and are being exchanged through the SMTA.

During the period from 1 August 2008 to 31 December 2009, the IARCs distributed total of 608,644 samples of Annex I plant genetic resources for food and agriculture under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement, while a total of 41,902 samples of Annex I germplasm were received by them. The IARC of the CGIAR also use the SMTA for non-Annex 1 material. The centres report periodically to the Governing Body on the use of the SMTA and provide additional information to the Secretariat that is made available through this web site.

Data and charts on the Multilateral System

Data and charts on the Multilateral System

The Secretariat of the International Treaty will publish on this page links to aggregated data sets and charts related to the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing.

Map with major transference flows of plant genetic material with the Standard Material Transfer Agreement from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to recipients worldwide.

  • IRRI publishes on its web site a list of the outgoing SMTAs. It is to be noted that some recipients have requested their SMTAS not to be made available on that list.

Data on CGIAR Centres’ acquisition and distributions of PGRFA using the SMTA

  • ​A companion document to the report CGIAR Centres’ experience with the implementation of their Agreements with the Treaty’s Governing Body, with particular reference to the use of the SMTA for Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 materials, IT/GB-4/11/Inf.5.

 

 

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