Main components of the ITPGRFA
In order to ensure that crop diversity is conserved and sustained for future generations, the ITPGRFA proposes that contracting parties (members of the treaty) integrate the following key elements into their agricultural policies and rural development programs:
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Genetic Resources:
Article 5 of the ITPGRFA encourages contracting parties to engage in “Collection, Characterization, Evaluation and Documentation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture”. Essentially “conservation” is about ensuring that genetic resources are not lost or eroded, and available for use today, as well as, for future generations. “Collection” is about bringing together as wide a scope of crop diversity as possible, both in situ and ex situ collections. “Characterization” is the identification of various crop varieties, their origin, and variation within populations. “Evaluation” is identifying special traits or characteristics of interest and their possible uses. Lastly, “Documentation” is the compilation of all information about specific varieties that are being conserved and making this information available for others to use. Under Article 5 of the Treaty, Contracting Parties agree to undertake a suite of activities in order to conserve genetic resources. Here are a few examples of the ways in which genetic resources can be conserved:
a) Conduct surveys and inventories of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture
b) Promote on-farm and in situ conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture along with their wild relatives
c) Promote a system of ex situ conservation
d) Monitor and maintain the systems of collection for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture
In October of 2006 the International Agricultural Research Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) entered into an agreement with the governing Body of the ITPGRFA to place their germplasm collection into the “Multilateral System” of the Treaty. The addition of genetic resources from CGIAR along with the various collections and gene banks of national Contracting Parties, raised the total number of crop samples contained within the Multilateral System to over 1.3 million (2010).
Additionally, the ITPGRFA contains several provisions which promote the sustainable use of genetic resources among its member states. A few examples of sustainable uses can include:
a) Pursuing policies that promote diverse farming systems
b) Conducting research that benefits crop diversity and farmers
c) Encouraging participatory plant breeding
d) Increasing the range of genetic material available to farmers
e) Promoting locally adapted crops
f) Supporting on-farm diversity
g) Reviewing variety release and seed distribution regulations to ensure consistency with the ITPGRFA
Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are truly unique in that unlike other forms of biodiversity they are not depleted through overuse. In fact, utilization from both in situ and ex situ sources will encourage that they are reproduced and ultimately conserved for future use.
The ITPGRFA encourages contracting parties to take measures which will protect and promote “Farmer’s Rights”. Under the Treaty, this means protecting any traditional knowledge associated with plant genetics resources, and promoting “farmers’ right” to participate in decisions directly related to genetic resources. The “farmers’ right” also intends to ensure that farmers’ are the beneficiaries from the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources. Examples of the benefits to farmers can be: higher yield, disease resistance, stress tolerance, or introduction of new and innovative crop species or varieties. The ITPGRFA also affirms the importance of a farmers right to save, use, exchange and sell farm saved seed, but also acknowledges that such decisions rests with the national authority of each individual contracting member. As such, implementation of the “Farmers’ Right” may differ between various contracting parties of the ITPGRFA.