Genetic diversity is the basis of plant breeding. Genetic resources – modern cultivated varieties crossed with wild relatives – serve as the starting point for developing improved varieties with new combinations of desired attributes through crossing and selection. Today, with an increased understanding of genetics, plant breeders are able to link specific genes to specific characteristics and make targeted improvements.
The seed industry is committed to developing better seed for a better quality of life. Better seed brings economic, environmental and health benefits. Improved seed that is resistant to drought and disease reduces the risk of crop failure thus supporting sustainable agriculture and global food security.
Accelerating genetic improvement through the development of new germplasm and technologies is critical to achieving sustainable increases in productivity. Never has the need to develop new and improved crop varieties, while protecting the environment, been more urgent or more challenging.
For more information see the ISF position paper: ISF supports a single international regime to govern the development of all rules and regulations concerning access to all genetic resources for plant breeding (2012).
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), popularly known as the International Seed Treaty, is an international agreement that works in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity. It aims to guarantee food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world’s plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well as the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from its use. It also recognises Farmers’ Rights, subject to national laws concerning:
- the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture
- the right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilisation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture
- the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
The Treaty established the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing to facilitate plant germplasm exchanges and benefit sharing through Standard Material Transfer Agreement (sMTA).
The treaty has implemented a Multilateral System (MLS) of access and benefit sharing among those countries that ratify the treaty for 64 of some of the most important food and forage crops for food security and interdependence.
The treaty was negotiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) and since 2006 has its own Governing Body under the aegis of the FAO.
The International Treaty aims to:
- recognize the enormous contribution of farmers to the diversity of crops that feed the world
- establish a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and scientists with access to plant genetic materials
- ensure that recipients share benefits they derive from the use of these genetic materials.
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity is a 2010 supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It provides a transparent legal framework for the implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. It is intended to create greater legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources by:
- establishing more predictable conditions for access to genetic resources
- helping to ensure benefit-sharing when genetic resources leave the contracting party providing the genetic resources.
The Protocol was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, and entered into force on 12 October 2014. It has been ratified by 60 parties, which includes 59 states and the European Union. It is the second Protocol to the CBD; the first is the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
By helping to ensure benefit-sharing, the Protocol creates incentives to conserve and sustainably use genetic resources, and therefore enhances the contribution of biodiversity to development and human well-being.