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International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

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The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was adopted by the Thirty-First Session of the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on 3 November 2001.

The Treaty aims at:

  • recognizing the enormous contribution of farmers to the diversity of crops that feed the world;
  • establishing a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and scientists with access to plant genetic materials;
  • ensuring that recipients share benefits they derive from the use of these genetic materials with the countries where they have been originated.

Main Provisions:

Multilateral system

The Treaty’s truly innovative solution to access and benefit sharing, the Multilateral System, puts 64 of our most important crops – crops that together account for 80 percent of the food we derive from plants – into an easily accessible global pool of genetic resources that is freely available to potential users in the Treaty’s ratifying nations for some uses.

Access and benefit sharing

The Treaty facilitates access to the genetic materials of the 64 crops in the Multilateral System for research, breeding and training for food and agriculture. Those who access the materials must be from the Treaty’s ratifying nations and they must agree to use the materials totally for research, breeding and training for food and agriculture. The Treaty prevents the recipients of genetic resources from claiming intellectual property rights over those resources in the form in which they received them, and ensures that access to genetic resources already protected by international property rights is consistent with international and national laws.

Those who access genetic materials through the Multilateral System agree to share any benefits from their use through four benefit-sharing mechanisms established by the Treaty.

Farmers’ rights

The Treaty recognizes the enormous contribution farmers have made to the ongoing development of the world’s wealth of plant genetic resources. It calls for protecting the traditional knowledge of these farmers, increasing their participation in national decision-making processes and ensuring that they share in the benefits from the use of these resources

Sustainable use

Most of the world’s food comes from four main crops – rice, wheat, maize and potatoes. However, local crops, not among the main four, are a major food source for hundreds of millions of people and have potential to provide nutrition to countless others. The Treaty helps maximize the use and breeding of all crops and promotes development and maintenance of diverse farming systems.

History: Evolution of the Treaty

The conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are key to ensuring that the world will produce enough food to feed its growing population in the future. In 1983, the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was established, and the voluntary International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources was adopted.

Another major step was taken in 1996 with the adoption of the Global Plan of Action at the Leipzig International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources. All this work culminated in 2001 with the historic adoption of the legally binding International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The Treaty entered into force on 29 June 2004.

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