What is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture?

ITPGRFA Logo from the ITPGRFA website 

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) is a comprehensive agreement that aims to establish a global system which provides farmers, plant breeders, and scientists with access to plant genetic resources. The treaty also recognizes the enormous contribution of farmers to the diversity of food and agricultural crops, and ensures that they receive fair and equitable benefit sharing from the use of these genetic materials. The ITPGRFA was an outcome of a lengthy negotiation process of the 31st Session of the Conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in November of 2001. The ITPGRFA finally entered into force in 2004 after 13 countries deposited their instruments of ratification with the Director-General of the FAO. As of 2014, there are now 131 organizations that are party to the ITPGRFA (130 countries and 1 intergovernmental organization, the European Union). 

The ITPGRFA was developed to recognize the importance of accessing genetic resources for plant breeding, so collectively we may ensure long term agricultural sustainability and food security. Over 84% of all human nutrition comes directly from plants, and although between 10, 000 to 12, 000 plant species are known to be edible, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. In fact, only 3 species (rice, maize, and wheat) contribute almost 60% of all the calories and proteins humans obtain from plants.  As such, the human population has become very reliant on only a limited number of crops species, and in some instances a narrowing of genetic diversity is occurring within these crops species.