Signatories to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources Meet to Discuss Access and Benefit Sharing

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The Sixth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture starts today in Rome and will be held through Oct. 9. During this time, treaty signatories will negotiate a subscription system to access diverse germplasm that is intended to generate predictable and regular income for farmers conserving and further adapting seed varieties on farm.

According to the European Seed Association, Europe’s breeders see this treaty with its Multilateral System and standardized approach to material transfer agreements as the best available concept to successfully secure the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture to the benefit of researchers, breeders, farmers and of society at large.

“It is ESA’s position that access to genetic resources for further breeding is the key precondition to enable plant breeders to continuously and successfully address the grand challenges of food security, environmental sustainability and climate change,” said Garlich von Essen, ESA’s secretary general, during his speech in Rome.

However, von Essen recognizes that the treaty is not perfect, highlighting the lack of income flowing into the treaty’s Benefit Sharing Fund is seen as the main shortcoming of the treaty and its Multilateral System.

“ESA stands ready to further contribute its knowledge, its experience and its dedication to a successful conclusion of the ongoing negotiations regarding the further improvement of the treaty and its financing, both during this Governing Body meeting and beyond,” von Essen said.

In October 2014, at the ESA Congress in Lisbon, Portugal, the sector underlined its commitment with the announcement of a voluntary financial contribution to the international treaty’s Access and Benefit Sharing fund. Now, ESA President Gerard Backx will hand a symbolic check of 300,000 euros to Secretary Shakeel Bhatti during the upcoming 2015 Congress in Vienna.

“This donation sends a strong signal of support to the treaty,” von Essen said. “It is both an appreciation of what has been achieved in the recent discussions, as well as of our expectations and trust of further improvements that are in line with the needs of the plant breeding businesses.”

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