|Last updated: 21/05/2013|
With hindsight we can all be wise and perceive our past understanding as enlightened and our decisions as guided by neat and clear objectives. In reality we are all blind to the future and to how things actually play out: present conditions often determine our interpretation of causality in the past and create their own tradition. I am now aware that my understanding of the Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) problem, as it was in 1983, conditioned the way I tried to contribute to solving it and the determination behind my actions. The work and thoughts of José Esquinas-Alcazar ‘Pepe’; Francisco Martinez ‘Pancho’ and Patrick Moony ‘Pat’, sculpted the model I formed in my mind and that of the Mexican Delegation to the FAO. I can now see that even the experts could not imagine how increasingly complex and widespread these problems could be, and the actual routes that achieving the institutionalisation of the ITPGRFA would take
During the last millennia, farmers have domesticated plant wild varieties and through breeding and selection, made these plants viable for agriculture. The enormous development of global agriculture always relied on the work of farmers (see Chapter 13 on Farmers’ Communities) and more recently on the breeding skills of modern breeders (see Chapter 15 on the plant breeders) and hence on the continuous supply of genetic variability found in germplasm samples. More and more, the genetic variability has proven fundamental to enable humankind to confront new threats such as climatic changes.
This annex provides an overview on the major developments in FAO that led to the negotiation, adoption and implementation of the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. It also presents the major milestones within the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the negotiations that led to the adoption of its multi-year programme of work for all genetic resources for food and agriculture.
As a multitude of studies have shown in the course of the past 30 years, global interdependence on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) is nothing new, but merely a statement of fact. An often quoted FAO study dating from the year 1998 revealed the knowledge that only four crops (rice, wheat, sugar and maize) account for 65 per cent of the dietary intake worldwide (Palacios, 1998). This is the result of a lively system of global exchange and movements of crops over hundreds of years, paired with the fact that crop varieties, if they are not nurtured through human care, will be neglected and are eventually endangered in their existence.
Plant breeding started about 9000 to 11,000 years ago when man started with the domestication of wild plants. Farmers and growers tried to improve their crops with desired traits through trial and error. The evolutionary theories of Darwin and the genetic experiments of Mendel that were developed at the end of the 19th century gave a further impulse to plant breeding and made it more efficient. During the 20th century breeding science was further improved through knowledge of genetics, plant pathology and entomology (Bruins, 2009). The development of hybrids (starting around 1920) was the first technology in plant breeding to offer better plant varieties to growers and farmers.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a pivotal piece of recent legislation, providing a route map for the use of such resources for sustainable agriculture and food security. This book explains the different interests and views at stake between all players in the global food chain. It touches upon many issues such as international food governance and policy, economic aspects of food and seed trade, conservation and sustainable use of food and agricultural biodiversity, hunger alleviation, ecological concerns, consumer protection, fairness and equity across nations and between generations, plant-breeding techniques and socio-economic benefits related to food local economies
The Multilateral System of the FAO Treaty (MLS) is exemplary. In order to promote conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, it establishes a global approach of simplified access to these resources and sharing of benefits from their utilization. This article analyzes the organizational structure of the MLS with the aim of unveiling concrete lessons for a possible system of global management of genetic diversity of a global importance and value based on access and benefit sharing (ABS). The underlying goal of such a system would be to promote conservation and sustainability of such genetic diversity.
In order to highlight key concerns and identify where further work is needed, this paper uses interviews and discussions with several leading individuals5 as well as articles, doctrine and official documents from relevant institutions to explore the subject. From our research and these interviews, five important issues have emerged. Each of these issues will be examined as follows. First, a short ‘state of the art’ will be summarized; second, we highlight the key issue and the different perspectives on it that we uncovered through our interviews; third, we outline particular questions that will require attention in the future.
This paper presents an initial critique of the Philippine Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002, focusing on its implications in the recognition and protection of farmers’ rights, as enshrined in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The critique is based on the provisions of the law as adopted, and does not yet include an analysis of its implementing rules and regulations which have yet to be formulated.