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IV. Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)



Article 27.3(b): Related International Agreements (Part I)

R. Silva Repetto and M. Cavalcanti
Legal Office


To review international agreements on the protection of plant varieties and issues related thereto, in order to assist countries to strengthen their capacities to meet their obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. The international background surrounding the TRIPS Agreement is summarized to ensure that countries are aware of the various alternatives and elements to be taken into account in their implementation process.


5.1 Introduction

5.2 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention)

5.3 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

5.4 Agenda 21



Plant varieties pose specific problems as regards the intellectual property (IP) regime that may be applicable to them. There is no harmonized regime for the protection of plant varieties at the international level. In order to stimulate plant breeding, different systems of intellectual property protection for plants and plant material are applied in the world. Many factors have to be taken into consideration when establishing such systems at the national level, i.e. the reality and priorities of a given country and its needs, including the need to comply with various international inter-related commitments.

This module considers three international agreements:


5.2.1 General remarks and legal nature

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, UPOV1, is an intergovernmental organization established in 1961 to coordinate the implementation, at the international level, of the Plant Breeder's Rights (PBR) established by the Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The UPOV Convention came into existence in 1961. It was revised in 1972, 1978 and 1991. The 1961 Act of the Convention entered into force in 1968, the Additional Act of 1972 in 1977, the 1978 Act in 19812 , and the 1991 Act on 24 April 1998.

UPOV works in close contact with the World Intellectual Property Organization of the United Nations (WIPO), with which it has concluded a cooperation agreement under which UPOV receives logistical support from WIPO. The Office of UPOV is under the direction of a Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is, by agreement between UPOV and WIPO, the same person as the Director-General of WIPO.

5.2.2 Objectives

UPOV aims at recognition of plant breeder's rights

The UPOV Convention is aimed at ensuring that Member States acknowledge the accomplishments of new plant variety breeders and make available to them exclusive rights of exploitation if their varieties are distinct, homogeneous and stable.

5.2.3 Member States

As of 29 June 1999, 2 countries were Parties to the 1961 Act, as modified in 1972; 30 countries were Parties to the 1978 Act; and 12 to the 1991 Act of the Convention. Pursuant to Article 37(3) of the 1991 Act, the 1978 Act became closed to further accessions on 24 April 1998. However, the Council of UPOV decided in April 1997 to keep open, under certain circumstances and for a further year after the entry into force of the 1991 Convention, the possibility to join the 1978 Act of the Convention. Even after the coming into force of the 1991 Convention, any State which has: (a) asked the Council of UPOV for its advice in respect of the conformity of its laws with the 1978 Convention prior to the coming into force of the 1991 Convention, and (b) received positive advice from the said Council or, if that advice recommended certain changes in its laws, changed its laws accordingly to the satisfaction of UPOV, may deposit an instrument of accession to the 1978 Convention at any time prior to the first anniversary of the coming into force of the 1991 Convention. At 1 February 1999, eight States were in a position to deposit instruments of accession to the 1978 Act as a result of this decision.

UPOV Member States (29 June 1999)

1961 Act as amended in 1972: Belgium, Spain. (2)

1978 Act: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Uruguay. (30)

1991 Act: Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America. (12)

5.2.4 Breeder's Exemption and Farmer's Privilege

Changes in UPOV provisions over time

From 1961 to 1991, the UPOV Convention provided for a Breeder's Exemption and, at least implicitly, a Farmer's Privilege, where both principles provide larger flexibility within the IP protection.

According to the Breeder's Exemption, authorization by the breeder is not required either for the utilization of the variety as an initial source of variation for the purpose of creating new varieties or for the subsequent exploitation of such new varieties.

Breeder's Exemption clarified

Under the 1991 Convention, the only compulsory exceptions to the exclusive right of the breeder are: (i) acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes; (ii) acts done for experimental purposes; and (iii) acts done for the purpose of breeding and exploiting other varieties (provided they are not essentially derived). The Breeder's Exemption is not applicable to essentially derived varieties, namely varieties predominantly derived from another (initial) variety which retains the expression of the essential characteristics from the genotypes or combination of genotypes of the initial variety. It is to be noted, however, that the free availability under the 1978 Convention of the underlying genetic resource embodied in a protected plant variety for the purpose of breeding is reaffirmed in the 1991 Convention.

In accordance with the Farmer's Privilege, farmers are allowed to use their own harvested material of the protected varieties for subsequent sowing on their own farms.

Narrowing of Farmer's Privilege

The Farmer's Privilege, as it is implicitly recognized under the 1978 Act, allows a broad interpretation and thus, exercise, of the said "privilege". The 1991 Act has narrowed this "privilege" by explicitly including it in its text. According to this Act, the Farmer's Privilege is no longer the general rule but only an exception. In fact, the 1991 Act contains an optional exception that provides that it is up to national governments to decide whether to permit farmers to use the seed of a protected variety for propagation purposes on their own holdings, within reasonable limits and subject to safeguarding the legitimate interest of the breeder (Article 15.2).

Reasons of public interest can justify restrictions on the free exercise of the exclusive rights provided for in the 1978 and 1991 Convention. These restrictions are subject to ensuring that the breeder receives equitable remuneration.

5.2.5 Discovery

Simple discovery no longer sufficient

Under the 1978 Act, the breeder is entitled to protection whatever the origin, artificial or natural, of the initial variation from which his variety is derived, thus including the mere discovery of a new plant variety. Under the 1991 Act the simple discovery is not sufficient. The breeder must also have developed his variety in order to be entitled to the protection.

5.2.6 Double protection

Double protection is now allowed

The 1978 Act contains a prohibition of double protection. Under Article 2, a State may provide protection to plant varieties either in the form of Plant Breeder's Rights or a patent, but once it has opted to protect a plant species by Plant Breeder's Rights it must not subsequently protect varieties of that same species by a patent. The 1991 Act provides Parties with the possibility of simultaneous protection for the same plant variety by more than one type of intellectual property rights (e.g. they can choose both Plant Breeder's Rights and patents).

5.2.7 Scope of protection

The 1978 Act limits the scope of protection to the commercial use, offering for sale and marketing of reproductive or vegetative propagating material of the variety. According to it, Plant Breeder's Rights do not extend to the harvested products, while the 1991 Act extends them to the commercial use of all material of the variety. Besides the protected variety itself, the Breeder's Rights extend to varieties that are not clearly distinguishable from the protected variety; varieties whose production requires the repeated use of the protected variety; and varieties that are essentially derived from the protected variety.

The 1978 Act requires the authorization of the breeder of a variety for the repeated use of the plant variety only in cases of commercial production of another variety; as well as for the commercial use of ornamental plants or parts thereof as propagating material in the production of ornamental plants or cut flowers.

Extended scope of protection

Authorization from the breeder is required, under the 1991 Act, for production or reproduction, conditioning for the purpose of propagation, offering for sale, selling or other marketing, exporting and importing, stocking for any other purposes. These acts relate to the propagating material, the harvested material (including entire plants and parts of plants) and products made directly from harvested material of the protected variety, provided such material has been obtained through the unauthorized use of propagating material and that the breeder has had no reasonable opportunity to exercise his right in relation to the propagating material.

The 1978 Act requires Member States to protect a minimum of five genera or species on accession to the Convention, and to protect thereafter genera or species on a progressive basis, leading to a minimum of 24 genera or species after eight years. The 1991 Act, on the contrary, requires existing Member States to protect all plant genera and species five years after becoming bound by the 1991 Act and requires new Member States to protect all plant genera and species ten years after they become bound by the 1991 Act.

5.2.8 Period of protection

Extended period of protection

According to the 1978 Act, States have to grant Plant Breeder's Rights protection for a minimum period of 18 years for vines, forest trees, fruit trees and ornamental trees, and 15 years in the case of all other species. The duration of the Plant Breeder's Rights has been extended in the 1991 Act to 25 years and 20 years respectively.


5.3.1 General remarks and legal nature

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted, on 22 May 1992, the agreed text of the Convention. The CBD was open for signature during the Plenipotentiary Conference on the Convention on Biological Diversity, convened at the time of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro from 5 to 14 June 1992 (where a record number of 150 States signed it) and at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 15 June 1992 to 4 June 1993. The Conference had been preceded by three meetings of technical experts and seven negotiating sessions, held between November 1988 and May 1992. The Convention entered into force on 29 December 1993.

It encompasses all genes, species and ecosystems, constituting the first international agreement that covers all the fields of biodiversity. It takes a comprehensive rather than a sectoral approach to conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It addresses issues such as access to genetic resources, sharing of benefits from the use of genetic material and access to technology, including biotechnology.

The Convention is a legally binding framework agreement. Its provisions contain general principles, goals and policies, rather than precise obligations or targets. In Article 6, each Contracting Party is required to, "... in accordance with its particular conditions and capabilities, develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity".

5.3.2 Objectives

Convention aims at conservation of biodiversity

As stated in Article 1 of the Convention, its objectives are: "... the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, ...".

The CBD is aimed at conservation of biodiversity by sustainable utilization of genetic resources, particularly by the biotechnology industries, and ensuring a flow back of the economic benefits of such use into conservation activities, particularly in developing countries.

5.3.3 Member States

As of 17 November 1999 there were 176 Parties to the CBD3 .

The Parties are: Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the European Community (176).

5.3.4 Sovereign rights and common concern

The sovereign rights of States over their natural resources are recognized and are referred to in the Preamble and the text (Articles 3 and 15.1). Article 15.1 reads: "Recognizing the sovereign rights of States over their natural resources, the authority to determine access to genetic resources rests with the national governments and is subject to national legislation". This stress on national sovereignty is balanced by the recognition that the conservation of biological diversity is a common concern of humankind (Preamble) and by the obligation of each Contracting Party "to endeavour to create conditions to facilitate access to genetic resources ... and not to impose restrictions that run counter to the objectives of the Convention" (Article 15.2).

5.3.5 Role of local populations

The role of indigenous and local populations in conserving biodiversity is recognized in the Preamble, as well as the importance of maintaining their knowledge and practices of relevance to the conservation and sustainable use, and the need to encourage equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of their knowledge (Article 8(j))4 .

5.3.6 Access

Rules regarding access

Regarding the issue of access, the Convention contemplates three different types of access: (i) access to genetic resources, (ii) access to the relevant technology, including biotechnology, and (iii) access for the providing State to benefits ultimately gained from the use of genetic material in the development of biotechnology.

As far as access to genetic resources is concerned, Article 15 recognizes that the authority to determine such access remains with the national Governments and is subject to national legislation, while each Contracting Party shall endeavour to create conditions to facilitate access to genetic resources and not to impose restrictions that run counter to the objectives of the Convention. Access, where granted, shall be on mutually agreed terms (Article 15.4)5 and shall be subject to prior informed consent of the Contracting Party providing such resources (Article 15.5).

It has to be noted that the provisions of the Convention apply equally to the flow of genetic resources in either direction. Nothing in the definitions of genetic resources or genetic material (Article 2) excludes genetically modified material or otherwise biotechnologically modified material from the scope of the Convention, thus being closely linked to the issue of access to and transfer of technology.

Each Contracting Party, recognizing that technology includes biotechnology, and that both access to and transfer of technology among Contracting Parties are essential elements for the attainment of the objectives of the Convention, undertakes to provide and/or facilitate access for and transfer to other Contracting Parties of technologies that are relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or make use of genetic resources and do not cause significant damage to the environment (Article 16.1)6 . Parties are under the obligation to take legislative, administrative or policy measures with the aim that Contracting Parties, in particular those that are developing countries, which provide genetic resources are provided access to and transfer of technology which makes use of those resources, on mutually agreed terms, including technology protected by patents and other IPR (Article 16.3).

The provisions of the CBD go even further when they establish the obligation of Contracting Parties to take legislative, administrative or policy measures with the aim that the private sector facilitates access to, joint development and transfer of, technology for the benefit of both governmental institutions and the private sector of developing countries (Article 16.4).

Access to results and benefits arising from biotechnologies based upon genetic resources provided by Contracting Parties, especially developing countries, is to be promoted and advanced on a fair and equitable basis at the bilateral level according to mutually agreed terms (Article 19.2). Contracting Parties are under the obligation to take legislative, administrative or policy measures with the aim of sharing in a fair and equitable way the results of research and development and the benefits arising from the commercial and other utilization of genetic resources with the Contracting Party providing such resources (Article 15.7).

5.4 AGENDA 21

5.4.1 General remarks and legal nature

Agenda 21

Agenda 21 is the programme of action for sustainable development agreed to at UNCED in 1992. The Agenda has been described as the possibly most far-reaching and voluminous example of international "soft law" (non-legally binding instrument) ever to be attempted, and as a text which may subsequently serve to underpin both national actions and subsequent, possibly more stringent, international agreements in specific areas.

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive programme of work to be implemented, from 1993 and into the 21st century, by Governments, development agencies, United Nations organizations and independent sector groups in every area where human (economic) activity affects the environment.

5.4.2 Objectives

Provisions regarding biodiversity

Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 deals with the plant genetic resources of the world within the context of long term food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development. Chapter 15 addresses the conservation of biological diversity, and Chapter 16 the environmentally sound management of biotechnology.

The objectives and activities in Chapter 15 are also aimed at supporting the Convention on Biological Diversity.

With respect to the aforementioned topics, the Agenda emphasizes the conservation and utilization of PGR in situ as a component of programmes to promote sustainable agriculture particularly pressing for the early entry into force of the CBD.

The role of biodiversity and the importance of its preservation is an outstanding issue within the Agenda as well as the acknowledgement of increasing genetic erosion. In particular, the involvement of indigenous communities in decision taking within environmental public policy is enhanced to promote the use of indigenous knowledge for more effective biodiversity preservation and use.

It recognizes the importance of indigenous and local communities, their knowledge and culture, and the contribution they can make to protecting biodiversity, and states that they should be rewarded.

Agenda 21 suggests the introduction of appropriate measures for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the sustainable use of biological resources. It states that Governments should develop measures and arrangements to implement the rights of countries of origin of genetic resources or countries providing them, as defined in the CBD, particularly developing countries, to benefit from the biotechnological development and the commercial utilization of products derived from such resources.

5.4.3 Support to the CBD

Proposals of Agenda 21 for conserving biodiversity call on Governments to foster traditional methods and knowledge of indigenous people and their communities; share the benefits of biological resources, including biotechnology; and develop national strategies for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of biological resources and the safe transfer of biotechnology, particularly to developing countries.

Environmental impact assessments should be made for development projects likely to affect biological diversity. Economic incentives should be used to encourage the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources. Technical and scientific cooperation should be promoted, with special attention given to technology transfer, professional training programmes and developing research and management facilities such as herbaria, museums, genebanks and laboratories.

5.4.4 Biotechnology7

Provisions on biotechnology

The proposals of Agenda 21 in Chapter 16 focus on the contributions of biotechnology to world development: better health care; enhanced food security through sustainable agricultural practices; improved supplies of drinking water; efficient industrial processes for transforming raw materials; support for sustainable methods of afforestation and reafforestation; and detoxification of hazardous wastes. Internationally agreed principles on safe management of biotechnology and risk assessment need to be developed. The traditional methods and knowledge of indigenous people and their communities should be protected and they should share in the economic and commercial benefits arising from biotechnology. Biotechnology offers new opportunities for global partnerships between industrialized countries, rich in technological expertise, and developing countries, rich in biological resources. Technology transfer, professional training, information gathering, scientific exchanges, research and development, venture capitalization and other capacity building measures should be promoted and accelerated.

Regarding implementation, Agenda 21 states that, to develop sustainability, all countries need access to and the capacity to use technology that preserves resources and protects the environment. Transfer of technology includes the exchange of knowledge, goods, services and organizational procedures. Developing countries need support to build their economic, technical and managerial capabilities.

The role of patent protection and intellectual property rights in the transfer of environmentally sound technology should be further examined. Consideration should be given to assuring developing countries access to technologies covered by proprietary rights. Technology should be transferred on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed, taking into account the need to protect intellectual property rights as well as the special needs of developing countries. Technical cooperation for capacity building, including technology transfer and know-how, should be driven by the individual needs and specific conditions of the recipients.

Annex 1


Biotechnology provides a powerful tool for the sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as well as the food industry. When appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of food, other agricultural products and services, biotechnology offers significant potential for assisting in meeting the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanized population in the next millennium.

There is a wide array of "biotechnologies" with different techniques and applications. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines "biotechnology" as 'any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives there of, to make or modify products or processes for specific use'. Interpreted in this broad sense, the definition covers many of the tools and techniques that are common place in agriculture and food production. Interpreted in a narrow sense, to consider only the new DNA techniques, molecular biology and reproductive technological applications, the definition covers a range of different technologies such as gene manipulation and gene transfer, DNA typing and cloning of plants and animals.

While there is little controversy about many aspects of biotechnology and its application, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have become the target of a very intensive and at times emotionally charged debate. FAO recognizes that genetic engineering has potential for helping to increase production and productivity in agriculture. It could lead to higher yields on marginal lands in countries that today cannot grow enough food to feed their people. Already there are examples of genetic engineering helping to reduce the transmission of human and animal diseases through new vaccines. Rice has been genetically engineered to contain pro-vitamin A (Beta carotene) and iron, having potential to improve the health of many low-income communities.

Other biotechnological methods have led to organisms that improve food quality and consistency and other organisms, which clean up oil spills, and heavy metals in fragile ecosystems. Tissue culture has produced plants that are increasing crop yields by providing farmers with healthier planting material. Marker assisted selection and DNA fingerprinting allow a faster and much more targeted development of improved genotypes for all living species. They also provide new research methods assisting in the conservation and characterization of biodiversity. The new techniques will enable scientists to recognize and target quantitative trait loci and thus increase the efficiency of breeding for some traditionally intractable agronomic problems such as drought resistance and improved root systems.

However, FAO is also aware of the concern about potential risks posed by some aspects of biotechnology. These risks fall into two basic categories: the effects on human and animal health, and the environmental consequences. Caution must be exercised in order to reduce the risk of transferring toxins from one life form to another, of creating new toxins or of transferring allergenic compounds from one species to another, that could result in unexpected allergic reactions. Risks to the environment include, among other things, the possibility of out-crossing, leading, for example, to the development of more aggressive weeds or wild relatives with increased resistance to diseases or environmental stresses, upsetting ecosystem balance. There is also the potential loss of biodiversity, for example, resulting from the displacement of traditional cultivars by a small number of genetically modified cultivars.

FAO supports a science-based evaluation system that would objectively determine the benefits and risks of each individual GMO. This calls for a cautious case by case approach to address legitimate concerns for the biosafety of each product or process prior to its release. This includes evaluating the possible effects on biodiversity and the environment and food safety, and assessing the extent to which the benefits of the product or process outweigh its risks. The evaluation process should take into consideration experience gained by national regulatory authorities in clearing such products. Careful monitoring of the post-release effects caused by these products and processes is also essential to ensure their continued safety to human being, animals and the environment.

Current investment in biotechnological research tends to be concentrated in the private sector and oriented towards agriculture in higher-income countries where the purchasing power exists for its products. In view of the potential which biotechnologies offer for helping to increase food supply and contributing to overcoming food insecurity and vulnerability, FAO considers that efforts should be made to ensure that developing countries in general and resource-poor farmers in particular benefit more from biotechnological research, while continuing to have access to a diversity of sources of genetic material. FAO proposes that this need be addressed through increased public funding and dialogue between the public and private sectors.

FAO continues to assist its Member countries, particularly developing countries, to reap the benefits derived from the application of biotechnologies in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, for example through network on plant biotechnology for the Latin America and the Caribbean (REDBIO) involving 33 countries. The Organization also assists developing countries to participate more effectively and equitably in international commodities and food trade. FAO provides technical information and assistance, as well as socio-economic and environmental analyses, on major global issues related to new technological developments. Whenever the need arises, FAO acts as an "honest-broker" by providing a forum for discussion.

For example, together with WHO, the Organization provides the Secretariat to the Codex Alimentarius Commission which has just established an ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnologies, in which government-designated experts will develop standards, guidelines or recommendations, as appropriate, for foods derived from biotechnologies or traits introduced into foods by biotechnological methods. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is also considering the labelling of foods derived from biotechnologies to allow the consumer to make informed choice.

Another example is the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, a permanent intergovernmental forum, where countries are developing a Code of Conduct on Biotechnology aiming to maximize the possible benefits of modern biotechnologies, and minimize the possible risks. The Code will be based on scientific considerations and will take into account the environmental, socio-economic and ethical implications of biotechnology.

The Organization is constantly striving to determine the potential benefits and risks associated with the application of modern technologies to increase plant and animal productivity and production. However, the responsibility for formulating policies towards these technologies rests with the governments of the Member Countries of FAO.


1 Union Internationale pour la Protection des Obtentions Végétales.

2 At that time, most of the Member States were industrialized countries.

3 It is to be noted that the United States of America is not one of them.

4 Article 8(j) requires each Party, as far as possible and as appropriate and subject to its national legislation, to "respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices."

5 Article 15.4 reads: "Access, where granted, shall be on mutually agreed terms and subject to the provisions of this Article".

6 The CBD recognizes that "in the case of technology subject to patents and other intellectual property rights, such access and transfer shall be provided on terms which recognize and are consistent with the adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights" (Article 16.2).

7 The FAO official Statement on Biotechnology is included as an annex to this Module.

8 Issued on 28 January 2000.

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