Faced with a lack of consensus on issues such as sharing the benefits of germplasm, which provides access to better quality seeds, India on Monday urged International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) member countries to make progress on eliminating the to achieve a North-South agreement.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, speaking here ahead of the 9th ITPGRFA Governing Body meeting, said people around the world have been given priceless genetic resources and the treaty must support access and sharing of all crop genetic resources.
Member countries must focus on conserving and utilizing smaller sorghum, untapped potential crops as well as wild crop relatives before it’s too late, he said, adding: “Our fight for climate-resilient agriculture and food security relies heavily on your choices and Action.” He reiterated that “no negotiations are possible at the expense of food security,” he said, urging global forums to remember that food is the most basic right. Developing countries are driven by the need to ensure that the “rights of farmers who produce food” are never compromised.
India is hosting a week-long 9th ITPGRFA Governing Body Meeting attended by representatives from 175 countries. The biennial meeting could not be organized in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The treaty has been ratified by 149 countries.
Tomar also noted that the ITPGRFA is “struggling to find consensus” on issues such as digital sequencing information, multipurpose crop species, benefit-sharing rates, etc. He urged member countries to “revive, reset and recover” to identify the best ways find forward.
He said plant genetic resources are the source of solutions to breeding challenges. But they are also threatened by habitat destruction and climate change.
“Their preservation is the common responsibility of humanity. We must use all modern technologies as well as traditional knowledge to preserve and use them sustainably,” he said. “If we close the divide between North and South and converge the aspirations of the treaty founders, we will not make progress.” The minister also noted that genetic information obtained with advanced genomic and bioinformatic tools has the potential to become the subject of intellectual property rights. On the other hand, traditional knowledge cultivated and enriched over generations becomes general knowledge.
“Multilateral forums like ITPGRFA have a responsibility to balance commercial interests and cultural heritage values to ensure continuity of conservation of plant genetic resources on Earth,” he said.
Stressing that plant genetic resources must be made available for research and sustainable use, Tomar said: “However, it is very important that every trade dollar resulting from the plant genetic resources accessed through the system is fair to the Conservation of plant genetic resources must be shared in purpose.” At the last meeting in Rome, the minister recalled that the treaty had created an “operational, pragmatic, sustainable and flexible” framework for benefit-sharing.
“It is unfortunate that the lack of consensus and the Covid pandemic did not allow for normal transactions. I urge you all to work toward that goal,” he said.
In considering treaty changes and revisions, the minister urged member countries to consider the interests of farmers and communities working to conserve plant genetic resources over time.
“The world lives on a delicate balance of power. Management of genetic resources must also balance conservation and trade; use with equity; technology with traditional knowledge; investment with innovation; and benefit-sharing access,” he said.
He said member countries will rise to the occasion, go beyond normal business and make up for lost time over the past two years to reach a viable solution.
Stressing that global agricultural research should shift from fewer large crops to smaller sorghum, smaller legumes and smaller fruits and leafy vegetables, Tomar said these are the best weapons against erratic climate and malnutrition, and that dedicated programs for documentation, research and exchange would have to be established and to use genetic resources of these plant groups.
“We must use every available technology (from space to genomics) and every penny of resources (human and financial) by teaming up with public and private partners,” he said.
Referring to an inventory prepared by a Technical Expert Group on Farmers’ Rights established during the 7th session of the ITPGRFA, Tomar proposed to the ITPGRFA Governing Body to introduce a module for awareness, outreach and capacity building programs related to Farmers’ Rights offered to support the implementation of the program once the details have been worked out.
Article 9 of the ITPGFRA deals specifically with farmers’ rights and India fully complies with it and the relevant provisions are enshrined in the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act (PPV&FR) 2001.
The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Qu Dongyu, said in his virtual message that with the world’s increasing population and the challenges of climate change, the food source, seeds and other plant genetic materials must be preserved as the future of food depends on it .
Efforts must be made by the public and private sectors to use genetic diversity in a sustainable manner and ensure it is made available to breeders and researchers to enable innovation, he said.
“It will allow us to adapt our crops to the increasing impact of the climate crisis and be more resilient to supply chain shocks. The treaty is central to achieving these goals,” he added.
ITPGRFA Secretary Kent Nnadozie, Agriculture Minister Manoj Ahuja and India Coordinator for the UN Shombi Sharp were among other senior officials present at the event.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)