International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

FAO & ICBA Ink Agreements to Save Plant Genetic Resources, Boost Food Security in World’s Marginal Environments

Photo Credit: ICBA


Abu Dhabi/Dubai, UAE, 10 March 2019 – The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, José Graziano da Silva, and the Director General of the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), Ismahane Elouafi, signed two landmark agreements today, expanding existing cooperation between the two institutions and strengthening their partnership on plant genetic resources, biosaline agriculture and climate change adaptation in the world’s marginal environments.

The first agreement was signed during an awards ceremony of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation in Abu Dhabi in the presence of H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance of the UAE, within the framework of Article 15 of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Under this Article 15 Agreement, the crop germplasm collection stored in ICBA’s genebank will officially become part of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing, adding to the world’s largest global genepool of plant genetic material, available to farmers, plant breeders and scientists for the sustainable production of food from plants.

ICBA Director General Ismahane Elouafi said, “Plant genetic resources play an essential role in ensuring biodiversity and food security. Due to many factors including climate change, population growth, and urbanization, plant genetic resources are declining at an alarming rate. Therefore, it is important to conserve them before it is too late. We are happy to sign the treaty with FAO today; it is a significant milestone for our long-running efforts in safeguarding some of the world’s most important plant genetic resources.”

“We are very pleased at the signing of this Agreement, which will make ICBA’s valuable germplasm collection more accessible to a broader range of users and ultimately farmers, while affording ICBA new partnerships and involvement in the global governance framework provided by the International Treaty,” said Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the International Treaty, speaking from FAO headquarters in Rome. “This is another important step forward in international access and benefit-sharing of plant genetic material, which form the basis for the world’s food basket.”

The Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing currently comprises over 2.6 million samples of crop germplasm. Material in this vast global genepool is exchanged around the world at an average rate of about 1,000 transfers per day to support farmers, plant breeders and scientists in developing new climate-resilient crop varieties to produce more nutritious food from plants.

The FAO International Treaty is a key international legal instrument for the global conservation, sustainable use and sharing of the benefits of plant biodiversity, which it does through its various mechanisms, most notably the Multilateral System, the Global Information System and the Benefit-sharing Fund. It is also the first legally-binding international instrument to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of indigenous communities and farmers to the development and management of crop biodiversity, and calls upon all Contracting Parties to protect Farmers’ Rights.

ICBA’s unique gene bank is home to one of the world’s largest collections of germplasm of heat- and salt-tolerant plant species, with over 14,000 accessions of around 240 plant species from more than 150 countries and territories of the world, in addition to around 250 seed samples of 70 wild plant species from the UAE, the center’s host country.

The Director-Generals of FAO and ICBA signed a second agreement, in the form of an addendum to an earlier agreement between FAO and ICBA, to collaborate on biosaline agriculture, water scarcity, and climate change adaptation, among other things, during an open day at the ICBA head office in Dubai, in the presence of H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food Security; H.E. Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group; and H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director, Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Chairperson of the ICBA Board of Directors. The signing ceremony was held during the open day organized by ICBA as part of year-long celebrations to mark 20 years since its establishment by the visionary leadership of the UAE Government and IsDB.

Attended by more than 50 high-level dignitaries including Ministers of agriculture from several countries, Director-Generals of international organizations and senior officials from government organizations, the ICBA open day was organized with support from H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, IsDB, EAD, FAO, and the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation.

Under its mandate in marginal environments, ICBA targets some of the poorest rural communities in regions where agriculture is the main livelihood but is failing due to salinity, water scarcity and drought and the mainstream interventions by other research and development agencies have not produced effective and lasting outcomes. The center has so far implemented programs in over 30 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

#Seeds #PlantGeneticResources #Conservation #Biodiversity #FoodSecurity #MutlilateralSystem

@FAO @PlantTreaty @ICBAAgriculture


About FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The International Treaty contributes to implementing FAO’s mandate on food security and sustainable agriculture. It establishes rules to facilitate access and equitable benefit-sharing of crop germplasm collections worldwide for the sustainable production of food from plants. The International Treaty currently comprises 145 Contracting Parties (members), including the European Union.

About ICBA

The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) is a unique applied agricultural research center in the world with a focus on marginal areas where an estimated 1.7 billion people live. It identifies, tests and introduces resource-efficient, climate-smart crops and technologies that are best suited to different regions affected by salinity, water scarcity and drought. Through its work, ICBA helps to improve food security and livelihoods for some of the poorest rural communities around the world.                                                   


Press enquiries:

FAO International Treaty: Ms Afshaan Shafi: [email protected], or +39-06-570-52469

ICBA: Mr Showkat Nabi Rather: [email protected], or +971 55 137 8653

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