Member countries at the New Delhi summit of the International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) are likely to reach a consensus on benefit-sharing of germ plasm which will provide access to better quality seeds.

In the last session, a consensus could not be reached on measures to enhance the functioning of the treaty’s multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing despite significant progress made during the six years of negotiations, said ITPGRFA secretary Kent Nnadozie. “These issues will be discussed at the ninth session of Governing Body and mostly likely a consensus will be reached,” he said.

The ninth session of the GB of ITPGRFA will be held in the national capital during September 19-24. The meet was originally scheduled to be held in December 2021 but postponed twice, first to May and again to September. The eighth session of GB was held in Rome in November 2019.

8th session resolution

During the eighth session, a resolution was passed asking the ITPGRFA secretary “to explore 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 further decided “to postpone the reviews and assessments foreseen under Article 11.4 to the Ninth Session and requests the Secretary to prepare a report, with inputs from Contracting Parties and relevant stakeholders, on possible measures to be considered by the Governing Body to encourage natural and legal persons to include material in the Multilateral System.”

The ITPGRFA, known as the seed treaty, was adopted by the 31st session of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November 2001. “The Treaty aims at: recognising the enormous contribution of farmers 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 benefits they derive from the use of these genetic materials with the countries where they have been originated,” according to FAO.

Genetic resources pool

The sharing of information on germplasm is limited to 64 most important crops that together account for 80 per cent of the food consumed in the world. The main objective is to build a global pool of genetic resources so that it is freely available to potential users in the Treaty’s ratifying nations. The treaty, which came in force on June 29, 2004, has been ratified by 149 countries.

Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja said every country has its own germplasm and biodiversity in agriculture. Conservation, access, benefit sharing and protecting the farmers’ right — all these issues will be discussed in the New Delhi session of the GB. India is the world’s second largest gene bank in agriculture after the US.

“How we can improve the access of germplasm of different countries to make agriculture climate resilient will also be discussed in the meeting,” he said, adding 50-60 agriculture ministers of different countries and 400 delegates are expected to attend.