International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The Multilateral System

Benefits of the Multilateral System

The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of PGRFA is one of the objectives of the International Treaty. Benefits are shared multilaterally among Contracting Parties, rather than exclusively with one particular country, with special considerations given to the needs of developing countries. This is yet a further sign of the collaborative spirit of the International Treaty to reach jointly defined common goals.

Benefits flow to farmers in all countries, especially in developing countries, who conserve and sustainably use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

The International Treaty provides for various multilateral benefit-sharing mechanisms, both monetary and non-monetary:

  • Facilitated access under the Multilateral System is a major benefit in itself. Many consider this access as providing ‘indirect monetary benefits’, due to its wide socio-economic impact and reduced transaction costs compared with individually negotiated access and benefit-sharing terms. The millions of material transfers conducted through the Multilateral System are an impressive sign of success.
  • Exchange of the vast amount of information and knowledge about plant genetic resources for food and agriculture stored in gene banks and elsewhere is critical for a functioning Multilateral System. This information consists of catalogues and inventories, information on technologies, results of technical, and scientific and socio-economic research, including characterization, evaluation and utilization, regarding PGRFA covered by the Multilateral System. Sharing knowledge and information is facilitated by the Global Information System and is also requested from users regarding the material they access from the Multilateral System.
  • Access to and transfer of technologies for the conservation, characterization, evaluation and use of plant genetic resources covered by the Multilateral System is beneficial to all Contracting Parties. Specific measures that the International Treaty covers include:
    • the establishment and maintenance of, and participation in, crop-based thematic groups on the utilization of PGRFA;
    • all types of partnership in research and development and in commercial joint ventures relating to the material received;
    • human resource development; and,
    • effective access to research facilities.
  • Capacity-building activities and programmes as a mechanism for sharing benefits start with the priorities set by developing countries in their own plans and programmes. Areas that Contracting Parties have agreed to prioritize include:
    • establishing and/or strengthening programmes for scientific and technical education and training in conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA;
    • developing and strengthening facilities for conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA, in particular in developing countries, and countries with economies in transition; and
    • carrying out scientific research preferably, and where possible, in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, in cooperation with institutions of such countries, and developing capacity for such research in fields where they are needed.
  • Monetary and other benefits of commercialization are shared multilaterally under the International Treaty. The recipient of germplasm is required to pay a pre-established ("fair and equitable") share of the benefits arising from the commercialization of PGRFA into the Benefit-sharing FundThe Benefit-sharing Fund is an essential element of the Funding Strategy and of the Multilateral System. It is the operational mechanism for receiving, utilizing and sharing the monetary benefits arising from the MLS, and its financial resources also include voluntary contributions.

In practice, Contracting Parties are highly active in sharing benefits, also partnering with stakeholders and international institutions. A range of inspiring examples are provided in the national reports that the Compliance Committee synthesizes for each session of the Governing Body. A number of experiences with direct impacts on the ground are available from the webpage for the project cycle of the Benefit-sharing Fund.

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