India to host the ninth session of the ITPGRFA Seed Treaty from 9-24 Sept.
At the International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) meeting in New Delhi, member countries are expected to negotiate an agreement on germplasm benefit-sharing, which will improve access to higher-quality seeds.
Despite significant progress achieved throughout the six-year discussions, a consensus on steps to improve the functioning of the treaty’s multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing could not be reached at the latest session, according to ITPGRFA secretary Kent Nnadozie. ‘These problems will be reviewed at the ninth session of the Governing Body, and an agreement will most likely be established,’ he stated.
The ninth session of the ITPGRFA GB will be conducted in the national capital from September 19 to September 24. The meeting was originally set for December 2021, but it was moved twice, first to May and then to September. In November 2019, the eighth session of the GB was held in Rome.
Resolution of the eighth session
During the eighth session, the ITPGRFA secretary was asked to ‘investigate why many countries have not placed the material in the Multilateral System and invite contracting parties to share difficulties that may be encountered or the needs for capacity building for placing material in the Multilateral System or in sharing germplasm with other Contracting Parties.’
It also decided to ‘defer to the Ninth Session the reviews and assessments contemplated by Article 11.4 and requests the Secretary to prepare a report, with input from Contracting Parties and related stakeholders, on possible measures to be considered by the Governing Body to support natural and legal persons to include material in the Multilateral System.’
The ITPGRFA, often known as the seed treaty, was adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at its 31st session in November 2001. According to FAO, ‘the Treaty aims at: recognizing farmers’ enormous contribution to the diversity of crops that feed the world; establishing a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders, and scientists with access to plant genetic materials; and ensuring that recipients share the benefits they derive from the use of these genetic materials with the countries where they were originated.’
Pool of genetic resources
The exchange of germplasm information is limited to the 64 most important crops, which account for 80% of the world’s food consumption. The primary goal is to create a global pool of genetic resources that will be freely available to potential consumers in the Treaty’s ratifying countries. The pact was ratified by 149 countries and entered into force on June 29, 2004.
Manoj Ahuja, Agriculture Secretary, stated that each country has its own germplasm and biodiversity in agriculture. Conservation, access, benefit sharing, and protecting farmers’ rights will all be debated at the GB session in New Delhi. After the United States, India has the world’s second-largest agricultural gene bank.
‘How we can increase access to germplasm from other nations to make agriculture climate resilient will also be explored,’ he added, adding that 50-60 agriculture ministers from various countries, as well as 400 delegates, are scheduled to attend.