ENB:09:66 [Next] . [Previous] . [Contents]


The US expressed its commitment to making progress on the revision of the IU and that in light of the CBD, with its clear provisions for sovereignty over natural resources and access on mutually agreed terms, it is necessary to examine where further multilateral rules are needed. The US supported focusing only on those resources for which there is an agreed global interest in maintaining open access. BRAZIL called for the establishment of a facilitated access regime for PGR that constitutes the basis for human world food production, but noted that agreements on access and scope are dependent on progress on the issue of FR. CHINA stated that lack of funding and technology has affected developing countries’ conservation and utilization of PGR, the historic foundation of farming communities. CHINA further asserted that developed countries have a responsibility and an obligation to compensate the contribution of farmers since genetic resources are mainly held in developing countries.

CANADA underscored its report, which surveys benefits in relation to food security. Given that the CBD underscores the fair and equitable sharing of benefits through access, transfer, and by appropriate funding, its report attempts to illustrate how benefits can be shared in ways that are in keeping with the CBD. MALAYSIA underscored that the IU was being revised in the context of a changing global economy based on free market forces and increasing privatization, and called for benefit-sharing between those that “improve” genetic resources and those that provide genetic resources “for improvement”. MEXICO highlighted two key items with regard to the IU that required resolution — ex situ collections prior to the CBD and Farmers’ Rights — noting that although this last issue is controversial, it raises important legal, political and ethical issues that must be addressed. Mexico concluded that benefit-sharing, which is linked to access, scope and FR, will require balancing benefits and obligations on both sides.

Noting that FR is no longer a concept but a reality, ZIMBABWE underscored the importance of empowering women, who represent the majority of farmers in Africa. Their indigenous knowledge should be developed not through expropriation into formal R&D systems but rather through FR and benefits. COLOMBIA asserted that the revision of the IU was part of a process designed to establish a new international order for more balanced and fair agricultural developments, based on the recognition of indigenous people and FR. Any attempt to establish a free-access regime without compensation would be in contravention rather than harmony with the CBD. EGYPT objected to separating FR from scope and access, and urged all members to reach a joint agreement on all three issues in a fair and equitable manner.

The EU stressed the need for basic agreement on scope, access and FR as follows: with regard to scope, the IU should cover all PRGFA, with an emphasis on those resources that contribute to world food security; provisions for access should be based on mutually- agreed terms that cover all material; and benefit-sharing should stress the multiplicity of benefits that can be shared, particularly through the use of existing mechanisms such as the FAO Global System, CBD, UNDP, World Bank, UNEP and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Expressing hope that a revised IU will become a protocol under the CBD, SWEDEN stated that harmonization will require addressing every CBD article, not just Article 15 on access. Further noting that the erosion of PGRFA is caused primarily by unsustainable farming systems, SWEDEN called the CBD’s Third Conference of the Parties’ (COP-3) decision on agricultural biodiversity a “breakthrough” in intergovernmental negotiations that should guide the revision of the IU.

Noting that the Leipzig Conference would facilitate progress here, FRANCE outlined its proposal for access according to a two-pronged approach in which parties would designate, on a species-by-species basis, materials for international networks, and access to non-designated materials would be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. VENEZUELA noted that the implications of PGR for food security necessitated the implementation of the IU as soon as possible, and stated that FR must also be recognized as more than a concept since it is also interlinked with issues of access and technology transfer.

SOUTH AFRICA described its introduction to PGR issues as an “eye-opener”, particularly since it had been isolated from the FAO for many years. Although SOUTH AFRICA had been involved with the activities of many international agricultural organizations, these activities have been of a technical nature. The FAO, on the other hand, appears to be extremely politically loaded, making it difficult to follow the debates on technical issues without proper insight and prior knowledge of the political nuances, emotional and ideological sentiments and economic aspirations of the various players. INDIA agreed with the interventions by developing countries, in particular Malaysia, Brazil and the African Group, and called on the Commission to carry out its work in conformity with the decisions reached at COP-3 and the mandate of the CBD as follows: to focus on scope and agricultural biodiversity for ensuring food security; to address access in bilateral and multilateral terms; and to acknowledge that FR was no longer a concept but a reality.

GHANA supported China, Malaysia and Zimbabwe on the issue of FR, noted the lack of funding in developing countries for the sustainable use of genetic resources, and called for a provision in the IU that would make funds available for ex situ and in situ conservation. BOLIVIA noted that the progress made at Leipzig provided momentum for deliberations on the revision of the IU, and that this must be done in harmony with the CBD.

PERU noted the interrelationship between the issues of scope and access and FR and that the future work of the Commission should take into account the decisions from COP- 3 and be in harmony with the objectives of the CBD.

GERMANY stated that the main objective of the Commission should be to maintain and strengthen cooperative activities for PGRFA and sustainable benefit-sharing that are ongoing at the regional and national levels. Noting the important changes in the world economy, GERMANY called for the involvement of the private sector. JAPAN underscored the importance of using PGRFA as a basis for meeting the present and future needs for food security, and noted that the IU will become a strong tool in the “post- CBD” era. JAPAN further noted that, with regard to scope, the provisions of the CBD should not be applied retroactively to PGR, and that FR are merely a conceptual issue and cannot be placed in the same category as Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR), which have a firm legal IPR basis.

The CBD SECRETARIAT then presented the COP-3 decisions of particular relevance to CGRFA-EX3. The decision on agricultural biodiversity calls for the effective and speedy revision of the IU in harmony with the CBD. While noting that the legal status of a revised IU had not yet been decided, the COP affirmed its willingness to consider a decision by the FAO Conference “that the revised International Undertaking should take the form of a protocol.” The decision on access to genetic resources urges the rapid conclusion of the negotiation for the adaption of the IU in harmony with the CBD, in particular providing solutions regarding access to ex situ collections not acquired in accordance with the Convention.

ITALY’S NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES underscored the paradox that while knowledge of biotechnology and of groups of genes is increasing, their extinction is occurring more rapidly. In briefing the delegates on the submission of an appeal written by himself and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation to concerned scientists throughout the world (since signed by 900 scientists and experts, and presented to the World Food Summit), the representative urged scientists who are advisers to their governments to join in this effort to recognize the importance of biodiversity for food and agriculture and to promote the principles of the CBD.

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) underscored a growing list of member States who are developing countries. Outlining farmer’s privilege legislation under the UPOV Convention, the representative stated that: while farmer’s privilege is implicit under the 1978 Act, it is specifically referred to as an option available to member States under the 1991 Act; and member States can restrict breeders’ rights so long as it is within “reasonable limits” in order to allow a farmer to produce his own seed for use in the next growing season.

The Rural Advancement Fund International (RAFI), on behalf of non-industry-affiliated NGOs, stated that the revised IU should include agriculture in its totality and should provide for the most full and free exchange of germplasm possible, considering that the key to global food security is local conservation, development and use of GR. Further asserting that non-adherence to the IU means no access, RAFI stated that the core conditions for access must include FR, no IPR and benefit-sharing. VIA CAMPESINA asked the Commission to bring about a broad-based consultation process, as stated in the Leipzig report, with producers’ organizations, peasants, indigenous people and farmers at the national, regional and international levels. Stating that such a process would allow farmers to participate with governments in the development of implementing policies for the rights of their peoples, VIA CAMPESINA then outlined 11 principles on which the international community should recognize FR.

GRAIN stated that a fundamental and integral part of FR is the right of farmers and local communities to fully participate in the shaping, definition and implementation of the measures and legislation of FR at the national and international levels, as well as in the development, implementation and review of the IU.

[Return to start of article]