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International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The US Senate decides on the ratification of the International Treaty on PGRFA


On 28 September 2016, the United States Senate provided its consent for President Obama to deposit the instrument of ratification for the country to become a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

“The joining of the United States will represent a major milestone towards universal membership of the Treaty. The US holds some of the largest public and best-documented crop genebank collections in the world. These collections are regularly used by researchers and breeders from all over the world in support of global food security. At the same time, the US relies on genetic diversity from other countries to guarantee a sustainable agriculture. This ratification, once completed, will benefit both the country and the global plant community of the Treaty”, said Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the International Treaty.

One of the centerpieces of the Treaty is its Multilateral System under which parties already provide access to 1,5 million accessions of seeds and other genetic material to improve food and agriculture. The access to the material available in the global genepool is critical to the efforts of researchers and plant breeders to develop new crop varieties that are more nutritious, that are resistant to pests and diseases, that show improved yields of high-quality products, and that are better able to tolerate environmental stresses. Once the ratification process is concluded, a number of crop genebank collections from the US will use the same standards of other international and national public institutions for exchanging crop genetic diversity, making the Multilateral System of the Treaty by far the largest provider of crop germplasm around the world.

Ratification of the Treaty will help the country to maintain a leading role in agricultural research, breeding, and markets and help US farmers and researchers sustain and improve their crops and promote food security for future generations.

The membership will also allow the United States to effectively participate in the ongoing enhancement processes to improve the Treaty’s global genepool and the Funding Strategy as they evolve to meet future challenges.

President George W. Bush signed the Treaty in 2002 and initiated the domestic process for the ratification. On 28 September 2016, Senator Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, reported on the Treaty and the Senate adopted a resolution of advice and consent for the ratification with 1 declaration and 1 understanding. The process has enjoyed a broad stakeholder support from public institutions and the seed industry.

To complete the ratification process, the country has to deposit a formal instrument of ratification with the Director-General of FAO, who is the depositary. The Treaty will enter into force in on the ninetieth after such deposit.

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