Biotech Updates

Africa to Benefit as Plant Genetic Treaty Plans to Expand its Resource Bank

November 8, 2017

Member countries, including 43 African nations of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), are expected to benefit exponentially following plans by the United States to add 500,000 more samples of plant genetic material to the Treaty's Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing (MLS). This emerged during the 7th session of the ITPGRFA Governing Body held from October 30 to November 3, 2017 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Treaty's Secretary Kent Nnadozie told delegates, drawn from countries that are signatories to the Treaty, that the added samples will comprise 15,000 varieties of plant genetic material for food and agriculture. "This is exemplary of how multilateralism should work, providing access and sharing the benefits between the Contracting Parties of the International Treaty," Nnadozie said.

ITPGRFA aims at establishing a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and scientists with access to plant genetic materials as well as recognizing the enormous contribution of farmers to the diversity of crops that feed the world. The Treaty also ensures that the recipients share benefits they derive from the use of these genetic materials with the countries where they originated. The Treaty, through MLS, currently facilitates access to genetic materials from 64 crops that include maize, rice, wheat, potato, cassava, sorghum, and banana, among others.

The resources to be added will bolster research into developing plants adapted to different environmental conditions and the impacts of climate change. This will consequently heighten efforts to fight hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.

It also emerged that French private seed sector will make an annual contribution of 175,000 Euro to the Benefit-sharing Fund of the Treaty starting this year. "This is welcome news and comes at a particularly opportune time, as we are about to launch the Fourth Call for Proposals under the Benefit-sharing Fund," Nnadozie acknowledged. "It also highlights the importance of fully participating in the International Treaty's Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing by adding material into the MLS while providing regular contributions in to the Benefit-sharing Fund, which helps support farmers in developing countries," he said.

For more details, read the media releases from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.