International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Global gathering to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa


Kigali, Rwanda, 28 October 2017For the first time in its history, the Governing Body comprising representatives of 144 member countries of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture will convene in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hosted by the Republic of Rwanda in Kigali, the Seventh Session of the Governing Body (GB-7) of the International Treaty is expected to bring together member countries, observer nations, farmers’ groups, NGOs, civil society organizations, experts, and other international organizations for this biennial global forum.

The theme of the Seventh Governing Body session is “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Role of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.” The International Treaty is considered to be one of the top 10 achievements of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and contributes to the achievement of a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly SDG 2 – by promoting sustainable agriculture and working to end hunger, and SDG 15 – by helping halt the loss of crop biodiversity around the globe. Its programs and activities also contribute towards achieving gender equality (SDG 5), combating climate change (SDG 13) and working to end poverty (SDG 1).

Plant genetic resources are the biological foundation of agriculture, the raw material for plant evolution, for plant breeding for the future. “Much of the world’s largest wealth of agricultural biodiversity is located in rural areas, which are often the poorest in economic terms,” said Kent Nnadozie, Secretary ad interim of the International Treaty. “The International Treaty programs make it a point to bring the benefits of the use of these precious natural resources to rural areas. For example, the projects of the Benefit-sharing Fund have already benefited about 1 million people in developing countries*.”

The Governing Body of the International Treaty is a global policy forum that meets once in two years to discuss progress made in the last biennium and to take decisions that will determine the direction and activities for the coming biennium. One of the main issues under discussion at GB-7 is the possible enhancement of the basket of crops currently covered under the International Treaty’s Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing, along with funding strategy discussions to ensure a more stable financial base for future programs and activities.

The International Treaty’s Multilateral System currently covers 64 of our most important crops, which together account for 80 percent of all human food consumption from plants. On ratifying the International Treaty, countries agree to make their genetic diversity and related information about the crops stored in their genebanks available to all through the Multilateral System, which currently has over 1.5 million samples, exchanged globally at an average rate of 1000 transfers per day. Access to this plant genetic material helps plant breeders, scientists, development agencies and farmers conserve and develop material adapted to their needs. The International Treaty also formally recognizes the contributions and rights of farmers and works with national governments to protect related traditional knowledge and encourages the involvement of smallholder farmers in relevant national decision-making.

The Seventh Governing Body Session in Kigali, Rwanda, will run from 30 October to 3 November 2017, and will be preceded by regional and inter-regional consultations and a Special event on Genomics on 28 – 29 October 2017. Details on the Seventh Governing Body Session can be found on the International Treaty website at:

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