In principle, when accessing genetic resources from another country, the accessing party must abide by the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA), which has minimal upfront fees. Under the agreement, if the developed variety is not free for research and breeding, then the accessor is obli- gated to pay 1.1 percent of gross sales, minus 30 percent. If the variety is available for research and breeding, accessors are encouraged to voluntarily contribute an amount of their choice. There’s also an alternative form of benefitsharing for individu- als or companies where they can pay .5 percent of gross sales for a complete crop. The challenge of benefitsharing has plagued the treaty since its inception. In 2013, an Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefitsharing was formed to develop a range of measures for consideration and decision by the Sixth Session of the Governing Body, which met in October 2015 in Rome, Italy. The Governing Body of the Sixth Session reviewed the funding strategy, but essentially decided to let the Governing Body of the Seventh Session undertake a review of the funding strat- egy with “a view to enhance its functioning, and, in order to provide a basis for review, decides to reconvene the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on the Funding Strategy in the 2016-17 biennium …” No One Size Fits All It has been debated that a subscription system be the only mechanism to access plant genetic resources under the treaty. A subscription system for germplasm access was defined that would require payment into the system for a determined number of years. The annual subscriber’s fee would be calculated as a percent of the subscrib- ing seed company’s total global sales of crops under the treaty, minus 30 percent. The sub- scriber would not pay on the quantity of germ- plasm access or on the sales of products derived from accessed germplasm. A subscription-based model would provide certainty and predictability regarding financial income through the benefitsharing fund. However, it is the position of ISF that only having a subscription-based system would not meet the needs or be beneficial to all participating par- ties. As such between the Sixth Session and the Seventh Session, ISF’s Gouache spent a sig- nificant amount of time working on this issue, and led the signing of a first-ever declaration of commitment from seed com- panies, stating that they would be willing to partici- pate and at what level, committing real dollar figures. Because of ISF’s contributions and interest in making the ITPGRFA work, Gouache was invited to speak as part of the opening ceremony for the Governing Body’s Seventh Session in Kigali, Rwanda. When Gouache showed up to the Seventh Session of the Governing Body in November of 2017, he had 41 signatories to the declaration. As he stood before the Governing Body, he said: “I stand before you today as ISF president, and as the representative of a group of companies. We are ready to make a significant commitment to enhance the benefitsharing provisions of the MLS. “The seed sector has always recognized the importance of plant genetic resources: the role they play in plant breeding, and the contribution they make to sustainable agriculture and food security. In fact, providing access to all plant breeders has always been a priority we share. ... “Before us lies a great opportunity to work together to enhance the functioning of the MLS. We must build now a multi-access benefitshar- ing system that makes sound business sense, and meets several legal and economic conditions. “These conditions need to be taken into account to build a SMTA that seed companies are willing to sign — one that respects their standard business practices. I’m talking about a system that serves the many, not the few.” Despite his remarks and the declaration, no further decision was taken by the Governing Body to aid the benefitsharing portion of the treaty, and very little progress was made. “If the Governing Body had approved a Standard Material Transfer Agreement with good business criteria and at an economic rate, those 41 companies would have been ready to serve,” Gouache says. “For many political reasons, it seems some delegates want to tackle new topics, instead of what’s already on the table.” Now, these talks will start again in another two years. “The solution to many of our challenges lies in the diversity of genetics,” Gouache says. “We need to get as many genetic resources into the hands of as many breeders around the world as we can. They need to be used and circulated. This is how we will be able to provide solu- tions to the challenges that are before us.” SW 64 crops are covered by the treaty, providing humans with 80 percent of their food intake from plants. >$32.4 million worth of grants the Crop Trust provided to conserve crop diversity globally in 2016. 61 projects have been funded by donors in 55 developing countries DID YOU KNOW? Through the treaty, member nations have access to more than 4millionvital plant genetic resources and average nearly 1,000 accessions per day. 32 / SEEDWORLD.COM JUNE 2018