Green leafed seedlings on black plastic pots

Highlights and images for 18 April 2024

Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Rome, Italy

L-R: Working Group Co-Chair Sunil Archak, Tobias Kiene, ITPGRFA Secretariat, Álvaro Toledo, ITPGRFA Secretariat, and Working Group Co-Chair Michael Ryan

L-R: Working Group Co-Chair Sunil Archak, Tobias Kiene, ITPGRFA Secretariat, Álvaro Toledo, ITPGRFA Secretariat, and Working Group Co-Chair Michael Ryan

How can governments design a system of exchanges of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) that is broad enough to attract users but flexible enough to convince provider countries to offer their genetic resources?

How can goernments ensure benefits flow to the stewards of agricultural biodiversity, particularly farmers in developing countries, in an era of dramatic market consolidation, rapid technological advances, and increased use of intellectual property rights?

During its last day of deliberations, the Working Group navigated a range of complex questions related to expansion of the list of crops in the Treaty’s Multilateral System (MLS) of access and benefit-sharing (ABS), payment structures for access to MLS material, and tackling digital sequence information/genetic sequence information (DSI/GSD) on PGRFA.

A discussion on linkages to be considered in the negotiations on the MLS’ enhancement drew attention, once again, to the close link between increasing benefit flows and expanding the list of crops in the MLS. Discussions highlighted emerging consensus to continue work towards expansion of the list of crops in the MLS to “all PGRFA” while allowing countries to exempt certain crops. At the same time, there was agreement to continue developing a subscription system for access to MLS material. To inform future deliberations, countries were encouraged to provide indicative lists of crops they consider exempting, as well as an indication of payments they consider realistic.

Tobias Kiene, ITPGRFA Secretariat, and Working Group Co-Chair Sunil Archak

Tobias Kiene, ITPGRFA Secretariat, and Working Group Co-Chair Sunil Archak 

During an informal discussion on DSI/GSD, delegates had a frank exchange of views on its impact on agricultural research and innovation, the need to ensure benefit-sharing from its use, and innovative solutions to accommodate this. On coordination with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), they discussed whether the Treaty should develop its own approach to address benefit-sharing related to DSI/GSD while maintaining collaboration with the CBD, which is also considering the matter, or wait for the operationalization of the CBD multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism for DSI use.

Views diverged, with some highlighting the need for the Treaty to take the lead when it comes to DSI/GSD on PGRFA and others questioning whether the Treaty has the potential and resources to do it. A participant highlighted two cases of particular interest: DSI/GSD generated through sequencing of MLS material shared through the SMTA; and DSI/GSD leaked to users outside the Treaty system through databases that are not accountable to it.

ITPGRFA Working Group 11 family photo

ITPGRFA Working Group 11 family photo 

Co-Chair Michael Ryan (Australia) announced that the Co-Chairs’ draft negotiating text will be available in English in July 2024, in preparation for text-based negotiations to take place at the next meeting of the Working Group, to be held from 17-19 September 2024. Following adoption of the report of the meeting, Co-Chair Sunil Archak (India) thanked delegates for their spirited participation and willingness to compromise. Participants applauded the interpreters, FAO staff, and the Earth Negotiations Bulletin team. Co-Chair Archak closed the meeting at 5:30 pm.  

All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For the 11th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the ITPGRFA Multilateral System, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Anastasia Rodopoulou.

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