FAO’s plant genetic resources treaty gets strengthened, US joins hand
The number of countries participating in the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture reaches to 143
The United States is the newest member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, a ground-breaking instrument that works to strengthen global food security by promoting the conservation, sharing, and sustainable use of agricultural plant genetic resources.
José Graziano da Silva, DG, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Thomas M. Duffy, Chargé d'Affaires ad interim of the US Embassy to Rome, marked the entry into force of the treaty for the US during a ceremony at the UN food agency's Rome headquarters recently.
"The United States looks forward to working with US stakeholders and international partners to continue to strengthen the Treaty to conserve the resources needed for agricultural productivity, resilience and food security," said Duffy.
"We welcome the membership of the United State of America and we hope that as new countries join the International Treaty, the increased exchange of material and the flow of benefits resulting from their use will translate in more support to local farmers in developing countries who conserve seeds and other planting material," said Graziano da Silva.
"Biodiversity can help us face the impacts of climate change. We need to ensure that farmers have access to seeds, and to promote and support breeding programmes in different regions to find the best way to adapt. That is what FAO's Seed Treaty is all about," added the FAO Director-General.
The United States officially deposited its certificate of adherence to the treaty with FAO three months ago, triggering a three month count-down to its entry into force for the country.
Five other countries — Argentina, Bolivia, Guyana, Tuvalu and Chile — also recently became active contracting parties to the treaty. And Antigua and Barbuda have also deposited its certificate of adherence and so is poised to become so by mid-2017.
Boost to rich genetic repository
The Treaty's centrepiece is its "Multilateral System" that facilitates access to a globe-spanning collection of plant genetic resources, exclusively for use in research, breeding and training efforts — and which includes measures to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of any financial benefits that result.
The Multilateral System currently applies to 64 food, feed and grazing crops maintained by International Agricultural Research Centres or under the management and control of national governments and in the public domain. Those who access the materials must be from the Treaty's ratifying nations and must agree to use the materials only for research, breeding and training purposes.
The world's largest collection of plant genetic material, the Multilateral System now covers over 1.5 million crop "accessions" — samples of plants, seeds, or crop varieties or populations held in gene banks or maintained by breeding programmes. The system has since 2007 transferred 3.2 million of these accessions for research and breeding efforts.
The United States holds some of the largest public and best-documented crop gene bank collections in the world, with more than 576,600 documented crop accessions to its name. These will now become much more widely available under the Treaty's Multilateral System.