|Last updated: 24/10/2014|
Geneva, Switzerland (3 July 2014) – The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture celebrated its 10th birthday since its entry-into-force on 29 June 2004 in Geneva today. The event highlighted the pivotal role of the International Treaty in ensuring future global food security, farmers’ rights, sustainable agriculture, and fair and equitable benefit-sharing arising from the use of plant genetic resources.
“We are convinced that the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a central and indispensable element of any global strategy on food security,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva through his video address to the Geneva gathering.
“We must remember that the main goal of the Treaty is fighting hunger and poverty, and helping to ensure a dignified standard of living for future generations,” said Mr Matthew Worrell, Australia’s Minister-Counsellor for Agriculture in Rome and Chair of the Sixth Governing Body of the International Treaty. Mr Worrell also announced an Australian contribution of 101,000 Australian Dollars to help fund research for the Working Group on the Enhancement of the Treaty’s Multi-lateral System of Access and Benefit-Sharing, and applauded the Treaty for its important work.
“The Treaty is essential for the future of agriculture,” said Ms Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, speaking of the challenges that lie ahead.
“Assessing and identifying new sources of genetic variation is a critical part of any long-term strategy to enhance the productivity, sustainability and resilience of crop varieties and agricultural systems,” said Dr Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. “We have started to do this in the context of Global Information System on plant genetic resources and its related initiatives.”
Dr Bhatti and Ms Haga introduced a new joint initiative between the International Treaty and the Crop Trust, called DivSeek. Short for “Diversity Seek,” DivSeek utilizes a combination of biology and sequencing of plant DNA to help speed up the plant breeding process. This initiative aims to connect phenotypic and sequencing/genotypic data for the improvement of plant breeding.
“The momentous challenge we face in adapting to climate change and ensuring we can continue to produce the food we need to feed ourselves will require us to make the best use of the tools we have to respond to these changes and incorporating plant genetic resources, data and technology into our responses will undoubtedly assist us in meeting these global environmental challenges,” said Dr Braulio Ferreira de Souza Diaz, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Dr Dias also spoke of the important role of biodiversity, food and agriculture in achieving sustainable development in the post-MDG [United Nations Millennium Development Goals] era.
“The Treaty is at the forefront of making benefit-sharing a reality on the ground – by helping to fund forward-looking agricultural projects,” said Ms Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary through her video address. Ms Barbut talked of the importance of conserving agro-biodiversity and of helping vulnerable farming communities adapt to changing environmental and climatic conditions.
Ambassador Abdulla Nasser Al-Rahbi of the Sultanate of Oman acknowledged the Treaty’s contribution towards combating famine and poverty, its support of farmers’ rights and its overall contribution to agriculture. Ambassador Al-Rahbi also spoke of the importance of the Treaty’s Fifth Governing Body meeting and the Ministerial Conference hosted by Oman last September, and the resulting Muscat Ministerial Declaration with its accompanying Action Plan for the Near East and North Africa (NENA) Region, aimed at addressing key regional issues, such as drought and water salinity.
Mr Garlich von Essen, Secretary-General of the European Seed Association, expressed the Association’s view that “Europe’s breeders see the Treaty and its Multilateral System as the best available tool to secure the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture to the benefit of everybody: of breeders, researchers, farmers, and of society at large.”
Statements of support for the Treaty were made by representatives of the Ecuador, European Commission, Germany, International Seeds Federation, Switzerland, and UPOV.
The celebratory event, co-organized by the Treaty Secretariat and the FAO Liaison Office in Geneva, was moderated by former BBC correspondent, Claire Doole, and attended by a number of eminent representatives of international organizations, civil society, farmers, diplomats, agro-economists, plant genetic experts, academia, NGOs and members of the press.
Participants included H.E. Abdulla Nasser Al-Rahbi, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman; Dr Braulio de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity; Ms Marie Haga, Executive Director, Global Crop Diversity Trust; and a number of other prominent speakers.
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