A new multilateral system for the fair and equitable sharing of
plant genetic resources for food and agriculture has become operational,
FAO announced today.
Agricultural biodiversity is in sharp decline and genetic erosion continues.
Over the past seven months, the system has accelerated the exchange
of genetic material, with more than 90 000 transfers of plant genetic
material within the system.
The Multilateral System is part of the legally-binding International
Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture that
entered into force in 2004 and has been ratified by 115 countries.
Through the International Treaty, countries have agreed to make
their genetic diversity and related information about the crops
stored in their gene banks available to all who comply with the
standarized benefit-sharing agreements.
Around 300 delegates will meet in Rome (29 October–2 November
2007) for the second session of the Governing Body of the Treaty.
A treasure for food security
“World agriculture is under enormous pressure to produce
more food in a sustainable way,” said Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary
of the Governing Body of the Treaty. “Agricultural production
needs to be improved by developing food crops that can adapt to
threats such as climate change, desertification, pests and diseases
and at the same time meet the demand of a population that will
grow from six billion people today to nine billion in 2050,” he
Agricultural biodiversity, which is the basis for food production,
is in sharp decline due the effects of modernization, changes in
diets and increasing population density. It is estimated that about
three-quarters of the genetic diversity found in agricultural crops
have been lost over the last century, and this genetic erosion
Today, only 150 crops feed most of the world's population, and
just 12 crops provide 80 percent of dietary energy from plants,
with rice, wheat, maize, and potato alone providing almost 60 percent.
Bread, couscous and tortillas
The Multilateral System provides farmers, plant breeders and scientists
free of charge access to plant genetic materials of 64 crops -
crops that together account for 80 percent of all human consumption
- and helps to share benefits derived from their commercial use.
These genetic materials are at the base of our food crops, our
breads, our curries, our tortillas and our couscous.
The System gives scientific institutions, farmers, and private
sector plant breeders the opportunity to work with the materials
stored in gene banks or even crops growing in fields. By facilitating
research, innovation and exchange of information without restrictions,
this reduces the costly and time consuming procedures for breeders,
while recognizing for the first time Farmers’ Rights.
The world's most important gene bank collections, more than 600
000 samples, held by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR), have been included in the system, together with
the Mutant Germplasm Repository of the FAO/IAEA Joint Division
in Vienna and other collections.
“No country is sufficient in crop diversity. Only the sharing
of plant genetic material from different regions and countries
will enable us to explore the unknown characteristics and the future
potential of plant genetic resources. The Multilateral System is
an important tool for benefit sharing. However, a lot of efforts
still need to be made to facilitate the access to genetic resources
and the sharing of benefits derived from their commercial use”,
The Rome conference will discuss issues relevant for the future
of Treaty such as Funding Strategy, Farmers’ Rights and the
sustainable use of resources.
Flu Virus in Europe – a Hidden Danger
Woodland Eggs Wins International Marketing Award
Demand Encourages More Woodland Free Range Egg Producers