23 March 2017
US Joins International Seed Treaty as Countries Support ITPGR and IPPC, and Overnutrition Confronts Europe, Central Asia
UN Photo/Gill Fickling
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The US officially became a Party to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) on 13 March 2017.

Australia and Norway pledged contributions to the ITPGR Benefit-Sharing Fund, while Canada made contributions to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), Codex Alimentarius and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

A FAO report on food insecurity in Europe and Central Asia shows that countries in the region are undergoing a "food insecurity transition" from undernutrition to overnutrition.

March 2017: As the US officially joins the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR), several countries have made contributions to the ITPGR, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and other bodies addressing food safety and animal welfare. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) also published a report on food insecurity in Europe and Central Asia showing that, as incomes rise, many countries are undergoing a transition from undernutrition to overnutrition.


The US officially became a Party to the ITPGR on 13 March 2017, three months after depositing its instrument of ratification. As a Party to the Treaty, the US is expected to place its extensive public crop gene bank collections under the Treaty’s Multilateral System (MLS), which facilitates access to plant genetic resources and ensures the fair and equitable sharing of benefits that result from breeding efforts that use materials from the System. The MLS currently contains over 1.5 million accessions of crop materials to which the US collections could add more than 500,000 accessions, thus significantly expanding the coverage of the MLS. With the US, the membership of Treaty increases to 143 Parties. Other countries that recently became members include Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Guyana and Tuvalu. Antigua and Barbuda recently deposited its instrument of adherence and is expected to become a Party in mid-2017. [ITPGR Press Release] [Status of ITPGR Membership]

In other ITPGR news, Australia and Norway announced contributions to the Treaty’s Benefit Sharing Fund (BFS). In January 2017, Australia contributed US$719,000. In March 2017, Norway announced its annual contribution of US$90,000, which is the equivalent of 0.1% of the value of all seeds sold in Norway in 2016. The contributions bring the funds raised for the BSF’s next funding cycle to approximately US$3.6 million. The cycle will be launched once the total reaches US$10 million. The BSF supports projects for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in developing countries to improve food security and adapt agriculture to the impacts of climate change. The BSF directly contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 2.5 to maintain the genetic diversity of genetic resources for food and agriculture, and ensure access to and sharing of benefits from utilizing those resources by 2020. [ITPGR Press Release, Australia] [ITPGR Press Release, Norway]


On 16 March 2017, the IPPC launched its 2016 annual report. The Document provides an overview of IPPC activities and progress in its key areas of work, including: the adoption of four new phytosanitary standards; the establishment of a new subsidiary body on implementation and capacity development; the development of an online ePhyto hub system to facilitate notification of phytosanitary measures; and other work in standard setting, implementation facilitation, integration and support, and internal management. The report highlights, among other events: the 11th session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, the IPPC Governing Body, held in April 2016 under the theme ‘Plant Health and Food Security;’ strategic planning for 2020 to 2030 focusing on the IPPC’s contribution to the achieving the SDGs; and promotion of the 2020 International Year of Plant Health. The section also highlights that in 2016, the IPPC adopted a record number of 12 International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) with 28 additional standards submitted for adoption. The Report also includes a chronicle of events that describes activities of the IPPC and its secretariat on a weekly basis, and a list of reference materials with further information. [IPPC Press Release] [2016 IPPC Annual Report]

In related news, the Government of Canada announced, in January 2017, that it will contribute a total of US$1 million to the IPPC, the Codex Alimentarius and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to support work on food safety and plant protection. The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of international standards, guidelines, codes of practice and recommendations for food safety. IPPC and Codex Alimentarius are administered by FAO. The OIE is an independent intergovernmental body responsible for improving global animal health. The three organizations are recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as reference organizations that develop standards for food safety, and plant and animal protection to promote a safe, fair and science-based environment for international trade. [FAO Press Release]

The “Food Insecurity Transition” in Europe and Central Asia

While most countries in Europe and Central Asia no longer face problems of hunger or undernutrition, members of the region are increasingly confronted with degenerative diseases associated with overnutrition, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Economic growth and increases in per capita income are driving a “food insecurity transition” from undernutrition to overnutrition, concludes a FAO study titled ‘2016 Europe and Central Asia Regional Review of Food Insecurity.’ The report shows that countries in the region display a pattern of changing diets with increasing portions of total calories derived from sweeteners and vegetable oils, and declining portions coming from cereals. In most countries of the region, problems related to overnutrition are therefore the primary food insecurity concern. Some countries also face persistent problems of malnutrition caused by deficiencies in micro-nutrients and often must deal with a “triple burden” of food insecurity, having to simultaneously address under-, mal- and overnutrition.

The publication presents nutrition-related data for all countries in the region since 1992. The first part describes the nutrition transition and its impacts. The second part discusses possible solutions, including policies for addressing and eradicating all forms of food insecurity, tailored to countries’ income and nutrition profiles. The report highlights food fortification – the enrichment of food with vitamins and micro-nutrients – as a promising way to limit undernutrition and malnutrition. Other recommendations addressing overnutrition include: reformulating convenience foods for enhanced nutritional value; taxing and subsidizing foods based on their healthfulness; nutrition education; improving nutrition labeling; and implementing food assistance programs.

FAO’s regional overviews of food insecurity provide annual assessments of the nutrition situation in different regions of the world. [FAO Press Release] [UN Press Release] [2016 Europe and Central Asia Regional Overview of Food Insecurity]

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