International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources

  • International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was adopted by Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations in 2001 during the 31st session of FAO.
  • Signed in 2001 in Madrid and entered into force in 2004.
  • Also known as Seed Treaty, India is a signatory to it.
  • First legally-binding international instrument to formally acknowledge the enormous contribution of indigenous people and small-holder farmers as traditional custodians of the world’s food crops.
  • The treaty was aimed at:
    • Recognizing the significant 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 originated.

Multilateral System of Access and Benefit sharing (MLS)

  • The International Treaty created and administered a unique global system that enables countries to exchange much-needed plant genetic material with one another through a Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing.
  • Crops grown in different environments develop differently and genetic material from food plants in one country can be essential in another country that is trying to increase food production, fight plants pests, diseases and the effects of climate change. This is made possible through the MLS of International Treaty.
  • To date, its Multilateral System on Access and Benefit-sharing covers 64 of the world’s major crops, accounting for about 80% of our food derived from plants.

Benefit-sharing fund

  • The International Treaty established and operated a special initiative operated for the benefit of developing countries – the Benefit-sharing Fund (BSF). This Fund supports agricultural projects for farmers, public institutions and others in developing countries to conserve and use PGRFA to improve food crop production, fight plant pests and adapt to the effects of climate change. The high demand for project funding is indicative of the considerable gaps and significant need for support.
  • Recipients for material from the Treaty’s MLS are to pay a portion of any profits they gain from the use of such material into the BSF. The process of developing and commercialising new varieties takes time, so the amount of user-based payments is still low. Therefore, currently, the BSF rely primarily on voluntary contributions.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault & ITPGRFA

  • The International Treaty provided the international legal framework needed for establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. Both the International Treaty and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault work to conserve and safeguard seeds. Both work to ensure food security sustainably. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault contributes to conservation by providing a safety backup of the world’s major crops and plants for future food security.
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