Many hailed the decision to re-establish the Working Group on measures to enhance the functioning of the Treaty’s Multilateral System of access and benefit-sharing and agreement on its aims and terms of reference as the main achievement of the session.
The meeting also addressed items related to farmers’ rights, finalizing a set of options for encouraging, guiding, and promoting their realization, and agreeing to convene a global symposium to expressly address these rights.
The ninth session of the Governing Body (GB 9) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognized linkages between the Treaty and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and addressed issues related to cooperation with the latter, including with regard to digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources and related benefit-sharing obligations.
GB 9 also addressed items related to farmers’ rights, finalizing a set of options for encouraging, guiding, and promoting their realization, and agreeing to convene a global symposium to expressly address these rights.
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary of the meeting underscores that the “conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use, are key to ensuring that the world will produce enough nutritious food to feed its growing population.” It reports that the decision to re-establish the Working Group on measures to enhance the functioning of the Treaty’s Multilateral System (MLS) of access and benefit-sharing (ABS) and agreement on its aims and terms of reference represents what many hailed as the main achievement of the session.
In 2019, GB 8 was unable to reach agreement on the enhancement of the functioning of the MLS despite significant progress made during six years of negotiations under an open-ended Working Group, nor was it able to agree on a formal intersessional process to continue deliberations on the enhancement of the MLS. Switzerland and India, the host of GB 9, organized a series of informal consultations to discuss shared aims for enhancing the MLS and options for possible next steps, which, the ENB analysis of the meeting argues, proved pivotal for progress at GB 9.
The MLS of ABS, ENB explains, offers a shared pool of PGRFA, applying to 64 crops and forages, selected according to their importance for food security. This creates an international genetic resource common for research and breeding purposes. Developed countries underscore the need to expand the list of crops under the MLS, while developing countries, often the material’s providers, “emphasize the need to operationalize the benefit-sharing dimension of this joint effort.” As ENB highlights, the main stumbling blocks at GB 8 included benefit-sharing from digital sequence information and rates for benefit-sharing payments through the Treaty’s Benefit-sharing Fund (BSF).
GB 9 convened in New Delhi, India, from 19-24 September 2022, under the theme, ‘Celebrating the Guardians of Crop Diversity: Towards an Inclusive Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.’ The theme acknowledged the contribution of the world’s smallholder farmers to the effective management of PGRFA and provided an opportunity to consider how the Treaty and its community may contribute to the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The session was preceded by a special event on ‘Celebrating Farmers as Guardians of Crop Diversity,’ on 17 September. [ENB Coverage of ITPGRFA GB 9]