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Open-ended Working Group on the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources

Rome, Italy; 30 October - 1 November 2001


Saturday, 3 November 2001 | The 31st Session of the Conference of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) met in an afternoon session to consider the report on the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. At the request of Conference Chair Saaed Bin Mohammed Al Raqabani (United Arab Emirates), the Secretariat introduced the agenda item on the Draft International Undertaking on PGRFA as contained in document C2001/LIM/17, and invited Amb. Gerbasi to present his report. Amb. Gerbasi recalled the long history of this process over the past seven years, involving negotiations through three CGRFA meetings, six Contact Group meetings, one Open-Ended Working Group and numerous informal consultations. He thanked Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK for having provided resources and hosted meetings during this time, and extended his appreciation to José "Pepe" Esquinas-Alcázar and Clive Stannard, of the CGRFA Secretariat, for their support and dedication. 

Amb. Gerbasi then formally proposed, according to FAO Article XIV and on behalf of the G-77/China, the removal of three remaining sets of brackets on the definitions of PGRFA and genetic material in Article 2, and language on IPR in Article 12.3(d), so that the Conference might adopt this treaty in its present form with agreed text. Norway on behalf of the European Region, and Tanzania on behalf of the African Group, supported the proposal. The US noted that she would be unable to submit the agreement for ratification without inclusion of a proposed essential security clause. The US then called for a majority vote on deletion of Article 12.3(d). The proposal was rejected with 97 votes opposed, 10 votes in support and three abstentions. 

The draft treaty and its associated resolution, as contained in C 2001/LIM/17, was then submitted for adoption by a two-thirds majority vote. The Draft International Undertaking on PGRFA was adopted, with 116 votes in favor, zero against and two abstentions, by Japan and the US. 

Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General, thanked all those in attendance for their efforts to arrive at a consensus, most particularly Amb. Gerbasi. He highlighted the Treaty's adoption as evidence that the international community can successfully address difficult problems. 

Closing statements were made by Argentina, Australia, Belgium on behalf of the European Union, Bolivia on behalf of GRULAC, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba on behalf of the G-77/China, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway on behalf of the European Region, Peru, the Philippines, Sudan, Uruguay, the CGIAR and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Delegates expressed their heartfelt thanks to Amb. Gerbasi, as well as to José "Pepe" Esquinas-Alcázar and Clive Stannard of the CGRFA Secretariat. Many noted that, while the agreement is not perfect, it does provide a solid basis for moving forward in the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA with the goal of ensuring food security. Japan noted its abstention on the vote for adoption, stating that he would consult with his capital on the Treaty's consistency, especially with regard to Article 12.3(d). The US also noted its abstention, expressing concern over protecting IPR that promote innovation, reservations about moving forward with ambiguous language, and disappointment on lack of an essential security clause. 

Poland, on behalf of the European Region, with Ethiopia, noted its interpretation that the Treaty is not subordinate to other international agreements and that it and relevant agreements are mutually supportive with the goal of promoting sustainable agriculture and food security. Switzerland noted its interpretation that Article 12.3(b) does not run counter to any of its present international obligations. The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration closed, inter alia, by noting that it had been seven lean years of negotiation and expressed hope for seven years of future bounty. 

Conference Chair Al Raqabani then reaffirmed the Treaty's adoption, and closed the agenda item.

ENB Final Summary

Mon 05

ENB Daily Reports

Wed 31

Thur 01

Frid 02

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CGRFA website for the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IU):
Documents for this meeting:
CGRFA Secretariat website -
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

ENB report on the Sixth Extraordinary Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture:
ENB report on the Sixth Session of the Contact Group for the Revision of the IU:

ENB report on the Fifth Intersessional Meeting of the Contact Group of the CGRFA:                                                                                              click to top

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