Summary report, 22–27 April 1996

2nd Extraordinary Session of the CGRFA

The Second Extraordinary Session of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Foodand Agriculture (CGRFA-EX2) was held at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 22-27 April1996. During the week-long meeting, delegates worked their way through all agenda itemsin spite of a staggeringly slow start, persistent procedural problems and a near-paralysis inplenary over forests, funding and follow-up. Nonetheless, delegates addressed severalissues in preparation for the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant GeneticResources to be held in Leipzig, Germany, from 17-23 June 1996. These include: the firstcomprehensive state-of-the-world report on plant genetic resources, which will beforwarded to the Conference; and a heavily bracketed Global Plan of Action, which willbe further consolidated by a two-day working group meeting held immediately prior to theLeipzig Conference. The draft text of the Leipzig Declaration, which is expected to be onethe Conference’s key outputs, remains subject to substantial negotiation. Delegates alsoagreed to hold the Commission’s next extraordinary session on the InternationalUndertaking on Plant Genetic Resources in early December 1996, immediately precededby a meeting of the working group that will prepare a simplified text to serve as a basis forthe Commission’s negotiations.


While plant genetic resources (PGR) have been sought after, collected, used and improvedfor centuries, it has only been since the 1930s that concern has been voiced over the needfor conservation. Concerted international efforts to promote conservation, exchange andutilization are somewhat more recent.

In response to growing alarm over the rapid loss of agricultural plant species, in 1974 theConsultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) established theInternational Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR). As an independent Board withits secretariat supplied by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), IBPGR’s missionwas to coordinate an international plant genetic resources programme, including collectingmissions and the construction and expansion of genebanks at national, regional andinternational levels.

Although much was accomplished during the 1970s, gaps persisted in practicalconservation work and linkages with utilization efforts, as well as in institutional relationsand policy matters. Due in large part to the urgency of the work during this period, nosystematic attempt was made at the intergovernmental level to develop a comprehensive,coordinated plan to conserve and sustainably utilize PGR.

The FAO established an intergovernmental Commission on Plant Genetic Resources in1983, and adopted a non-binding International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources(IU), which is now being revised in light of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity.In 1995 the Commission was renamed the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food andAgriculture (CGRFA), a body which currently comprised of the 143 member States of theFAO.) The Commission and the International Undertaking constitute the main institutionalcomponents of the Global System for the Conservation and Utilization of Plant GeneticResources for Food and Agriculture, which also includes other international instrumentsand technical mechanisms being developed by the FAO.

A series of international technical conferences and meetings on PGR have been convenedby the FAO, in cooperation with other organizations, in order to facilitate technicaldiscussions among scientists and to create awareness about PGR issues among policy-makers at the national and international levels. The first significant meeting was held in1961 and focused on plant exploration and introduction. The 1967 Conference formulated anumber of important resolutions subsequently adopted by the 1972 UN Conference on theHuman Environment. The most recent international technical conference, which took placein 1981, catalyzed the development of the FAO Global System.

By the early 1990s, it was becoming evident that another international conference wasneeded to assess progress, identify problems and opportunities, and give direction to futureactivities in the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources for food andagriculture (PGRFA). At its fourth session in 1991, the Commission proposed theconvening of an international technical conference on plant genetic resources. The FAOestablished a multi-donor trust-fund project to coordinate the preparatory process for theFourth International Technical Conference on PGR to be held in Leipzig, Germany, from17-23 June 1996.

The importance of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture was formallyrecognized in Chapter 14 of Agenda 21, which includes programmes of action on the“conservation and sustainable utilization of PGRFA.” At the international level, Agenda21 proposes actions to: strengthen the FAO Global System; prepare periodic state of theworld reports on PGRFA and a rolling global cooperative plan of action on PGRFA; andpromote the International Technical Conference on PGRFA, which would consider both thereport and the plan of action.

In April 1993, the fifth session of the Commission noted that the Conference process would“transform the relevant parts of the UNCED process (including Agenda 21 and theConvention on Biological Diversity (CBD)) into a costed Global Plan of Action based onthe first FAO Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources.” TheCommission also noted that the process would “make the Global System fully operational.”

At its most recent regular session, held in June 1995, the Commission concentrated on twoissues in particular: negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking (the focusof the first extraordinary session of the Commission in November 1994 and a third to beheld in the fall of 1996) and preparations for the Leipzig Conference (the focus of asecond extraordinary session of the Commission in April 1996).


The Second Extraordinary Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food andAgriculture (CGRFA-EX2) was opened by FAO Deputy-Director, Mr. H. Hjort on 22April 1996. In his opening statement, Hjort noted the expanded scope of the Commission toinclude domesticated animals and marine and aquatic resources. Dr. Zehni, the Director ofPlant Production and Protection, emphasized that the country-driven preparatory processfor Leipzig has helped raise awareness among policy-makers of the importance of plantgenetic resources. The results of this process include the drafts of two major elements ofthe FAO Global System: the first Report on the State of the World’s Plant GeneticResources and the Global Plan of Action. He suggested that the Commission focus on twoessential tasks: recommendations to the Leipzig Conference on its scope, purpose andexpected results; and advancing consensus on the final documents.

At its sixth session in June 1995, the Commission elected Mr. Jos Bolivar (Spain) asChair of the Commission until its next regular session. Mr. Moorosi Raditapole (Lesotho)and Ms. Kristiane Herrmann (Australia) were elected as first and second Vice-Chairs,respectively, and Mr. Fernando Jos Marroni de Abreu (Brazil) was elected Rapporteur.

Delegates then adopted the provisional agenda and timetable (document CGRFA-EX2/96/1), which contains the following items: preparation for the Fourth InternationalTechnical Conference (item 2), including the First Report on the State of the World’s PGR(item 2.1), the Global Plan of Action on PGR (item 2.2), the draft provisional agenda of theFourth Conference (item 2.3) and other matters related to its organization (item 2.4); andpreparation for further negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking onPGR (item 3).


DRAFT PROVISIONAL AGENDA: Delegates agreed that the Leipzig Conferenceagenda would include, among other items: a progress report on the revision of theInternational Undertaking; a presentation of the Report on the State of the World’s PlantGenetic Resources; adoption of the Global Plan of Action (GPA) and recommendations forits implementation; review of possibilities for the implementation and financing of theGPA; and adoption of the Leipzig Declaration. As a basis for discussion on this item,delegates referred to the draft provisional agenda adopted by the Commission at its sixthsession and contained in document CGRFA-EX2/96/5. The Commission emphasized thatthe draft should be “finalized at the [current session], and that the Fourth InternationalTechnical Conference itself would determine the definitive version of the agenda.”

OTHER ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS: As the host country of the Conference,Germany outlined its preparations, most notably the recent opening of the ultra-modernLeipzig Fair Ground, which encloses the conference centre and exhibition hall. He urgedmember governments to confirm attendance and expressed hope that the a spirit ofcooperation and compromise would make Leipzig a resounding success.

The second Vice-Chair, Ms. Kristiane Herrmann (Australia), reported on the conclusionsof an informal contact group (comprised of the regional representatives) on organizationalmatters. The FAO Director-General will open the Conference and the German Minister forAgriculture will provide the welcoming address. Germany indicated that its DeputyMinister for Agriculture is prepared to chair the meeting, if elected by the Conference. Thesize and representation of the Bureau will be determined based on consultations with FAOregional representatives in Rome. Regarding organization of work, the contact groupagreed that in addition to meetings of the plenary, working groups with a clear mandate tosettle issues will be established as needed. However, no more than two parallel sessionsmay be held in order to facilitate the participation of smaller delegations. Although nohigh-level segment will be held, it is expected that some high-level representatives will bepresent to deliver opening statements.

The FAO Director-General has agreed to present a special medal to honor distinguishedwork in the field of PGR. However, criteria and a selection process have yet to beestablished. The US, SWEDEN and INDIA proposed honoring eminent scientists who didpioneering work on PGR. COLOMBIA and MEXICO suggested special recognition oflocal and indigenous communities as an act of justice. ETHIOPIA proposed raisingconsciousness of different groups’ contributions by creating additional categories,including art and literature.

Delegates also discussed presentation of the report adopted at Leipzig to other relevantbodies. The FAO Director-General has indicated his wishes that the report constitute amajor input into the World Food Summit to be held in November 1996.

SWEDEN expressed dismay at the absence of the Executive Secretary of the Conventionon Biological Diversity, especially in light of the substantive theme of this year’s meetingof the Conference of the Parties (COP): terrestrial ecosystems. To this end, SWEDEN,later supported by BRAZIL, MALAYSIA and the EU, urged both the Executive Secretaryof the CBD as well as the Executive Director of its interim financial mechanism, theGlobal Environmental Facility, to personally attend the Leipzig Conference. AUSTRALIArecalled that CBD COP-2 formally endorsed the International Technical Conference and itspreparatory process, and welcomed the presentation of the COP-2 President in Leipzig.


As a basis for discussion on this agenda item, delegates referred to document CGRFA-EX2/96/2 on the first Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources. Inintroducing the document, Dr. Cary Fowler, the Project Manager of the preparatory processfor the Fourth International Technical Conference, noted that the Report was based on anoutline approved by the sixth session of the Commission. He explained that the Reportrepresents a synthesis of over 5000 pages of information gathered through the country-driven preparatory process, which included 150 Country Reports and the results of 11regional and subregional meetings. Additional information had been provided through theFAO World Information and Early Warning System, international institutes, NGOs and theprivate sector. The Report should be considered in conjunction with the more detailedinformation provided in the complementary background documents.

Although MOROCCO proposed a paragraph-by-paragraph review of the Report, mostdelegates limited their plenary interventions to general concerns. SENEGAL objected tothe Report’s use of the term “marginal areas”, arguing that an area is marginal only if all ofits crops are marginal. CANADA detailed its concerns, including use of the terms “formal”and “informal”, on-farm management, implications that a legal instrument is required, andbenefit-sharing in accordance with the CBD.

INDIA and MALAYSIA expressed concern that the Vavilovian Centres of Origin were notaddressed. ITALY, on behalf of the EU, emphasized information gaps in national andregional reporting and noted that the open process employed in preparing the Report mightserve as a foundation for a future monitoring system on the world’s PGR. MALAYSIAnoted that the Report should highlight strengths and weaknesses within the present systemand form the basis for strategies under the GPA. He noted the Report’s inadequatetreatment of farmers’ rights and legislative measures regarding access and benefit sharing.INDONESIA called for stronger treatment of national legislation and policy. FRANCEcalled for a more strategic approach, one which would address priority areas to justify theGPA. ECUADOR recommended that the Report include a review of native PGR as anintegral part of traditional agricultural systems. KENYA emphasized the importance ofsubregional meetings. IRAN emphasized the transfer of technologies for the conservationof medicinal and ornamental plants.

In addition to the Report’s content, delegates also discussed its status. The US noted thatthe Commission meeting should not be an endorsement of the Report. MEXICO, on thebasis of informal consultations with Latin American and Caribbean countries, stated thatthe Report should be used a framework for discussion and should not be imbued with thesame status as a document negotiated by governments. As such, the GPA should beemphasized and the Report simply noted in Leipzig. BRAZIL, while commending the“bottom up” process and integrated cooperation between countries and institutions that ledto this first comprehensive report, stated that it should serve as an informative backgroundpaper. COLOMBIA noted that the document provided a good preliminary overview of thestate of PGR, but should remain a reference document, especially since it may not coincidewith political views.

SWEDEN noted that it was up to the Secretariat to determine what to include in its owndocuments, such as the Report. Nonetheless, he noted that the continuing process ofupdating and refining the Report should include countries and that the Leipzig Conferencecan provide guidance on future work of the FAO — with greater emphasis on sustainableagriculture and a move away from the “squirrel approach” of collecting everything in genebanks. He noted his preference for a full presentation rather an executive summary of theReport in Leipzig.

Upon the request of MEXICO and SWEDEN, the Secretariat’s legal counsel provided thefollowing advice: an information-based document may be adopted even if it is to besubject to periodic revisions; “taking note” of a document falls short of accepting it — astatement of fact might be “welcomed” or “accepted” as a basis for future discussion oraction.

CANADA and PAKISTAN recalled that the original mandate of this extraordinary session(as agreed at the Commission’s sixth session) entrusted the Commission — not theSecretariat — with finalizing the Report for Leipzig. Despite these last views, a consensusemerged regarding the Report’s status as a background information document that would beperiodically updated and revised. In line with the status of the Report and the relateddecision to limit its consideration, delegates decided not to formally endorse the Reportbut to submit written comments and corrections to the Secretariat, which would serve as abasis for a revised text to be forwarded to Leipzig. These decisions were reflected in items6 and 8 of the provisional agenda for Leipzig. Delegates agreed to focus their attention onthe Declaration and the GPA.

In its report, the Commission adopted a section on this item (as orally amended by Canada,Colombia and Germany), which includes the following points. The Commission recognizesthe Report, which represents the first world-wide assessment of the state of PGRconservation and utilization, as a useful basis for the GPA and as a comprehensive sourceof information, which should be periodically updated, made widely available and analyzedin further depth in order to facilitate the monitoring role of the Commission. Also, theCommission agreed that although it would not formally endorse the Report, the Secretariatshould forward a revised text to Leipzig on the basis of comments and correctionssubmitted by governments.


As a basis for discussion, delegates referred to the draft Global Plan of Action (documentCGRFA-EX2/96/3), which is based on the revised structure endorsed by the sixth sessionof the Commission (Appendix F of the report of the sixth session, CGRFA-6/95/REP).Since plenary deliberations on the GPA proceeded slowly, the Chair established a parallel open-ended drafting group to consider written submissions and oral comments put forwardduring plenary. Under the chairmanship of the Rapporteur, Mr. F.J. Marroni de Abreu(Brazil), the drafting group met nine times between Wednesday afternoon and Saturdayafternoon and completed only a partial reading due to the complexity of and controversyover many of the issues involved. As a result, the drafting group was unable to submitsuccessive sections to the plenary for a second reading, as originally planned, and theheavily bracketed text will be a matter for further negotiation in Leipzig, where a workinggroup will meet for two days before the Conference to consolidate the current text.

The plenary’s discussion of the GPA focused on the document’s substance and structure aswell as procedure for its review. COLOMBIA reported on the Latin American andCaribbean Group (GRULAC) regional meeting in Bogota, which was attended by 25countries, and highlighted the major components of the Bogota Declaration, including: thesovereignty of States’ over their genetic resources; integration of political, institutional,scientific and organizational matters; dependence of the global economy on shared geneticresources; application of legal measures to systems of access and farmers’ rights;harmonization of existing legal instruments, including intellectual property rights; andaccess to financial resources. She requested that the Bogota Declaration be part of theGPA.

MADAGASCAR noted that the financial estimates in the GPA were rather low.INDONESIA hoped that recommendations from subregional meetings be included as an appendix to the report.

The NETHERLANDS stated that the GPA was more an inventory rather than a plan ofaction. The EC noted its difficulty in studying the GPA without an understanding of thestatus of PGR; suggested that the scope of the GPA should include forest genetic resources;indicated that the International Undertaking should be in harmony with other agreements,notably the CBD; and noted that implementation of the GPA without a special fund wouldbe problematic. MALAYSIA, later supported by KENYA, underscored the GPA’s lack ofbalance because it did not adequately discuss benefit sharing.

CANADA, later supported by NORWAY, the US, JAPAN and AUSTRALIA, underscoredthat the GPA represents only one part of the FAO Global System. He further noted that theissue of on-farm management is not well-documented. VENEZUELA indicated that trainingcosts had been underestimated. MEXICO, later supported by ETHIOPIA, noted the GPA’scursory consideration of farmers’ rights and centers of origin, and insufficient reference toaccess to training and financing.

An NGO, the Rural Advancement Fund International (RAFI), felt that the GPA did notrecognize genetic erosion as linked to current systems of agriculture. CHINA underscoredthe importance of institutional capacity-building. AUSTRALIA, supported by SWEDENand ARGENTINA, called for harmonization of the GPA with the CBD. BRAZIL statedthat the GPA should not serve as an instrument for gaining concessions under theInternational Undertaking. The US, supported by MALAYSIA and SWEDEN, stated thatthe primary goal is to maintain PGR for world food security. The US underscored the greatimportance it placed on unrestricted access to PGR, and stated that the concept of farmers’rights should not include intellectual property rights or human rights law.

MADAGASCAR called for a timetable for implementation. MALAYSIA stated thatfarmers’ rights should move from concept to reality. SWEDEN noted that although the GPAwas technically sound, it lacked crispness and indicated that the GPA should provideguidance on funding to the COP of the CBD. INDIA was concerned that Vavilovian Centresof Origin were not considered in the GPA. KENYA stated that patents must be sharedbetween countries. INDONESIA called for greater emphasis on public awareness.

After delegates expressed their general comments on the content of the GPA, the plenarythen embarked on a paragraph-by- paragraph review of the document.

INTRODUCTION: Numerous changes to the first paragraph were proposed bymany countries as the original text gave a rather wordy overview to the context of thereport. Three versions still remain. As a result of BRAZIL’s proposal in the DraftingGroup (DG) to withdraw all references to agroforestry and forestry, these terms remain inbrackets while later references to forests have been deleted altogether. (See the discussionon forest genetic resources on page 6.)

The Rationale for the Global Plan of Action Specifically for Food and Agriculture:In plenary the US called for recognition of the importance of world food security andCANADA requested that a later section of the GPA, relating to international cooperationand equitable benefit-sharing, be inserted in the Introduction. In the DG, BRAZILemphasized the need to combat poverty rather than improve production.

The Aims and Strategies for the Global Plan of Action: In the Drafting Group, theUS, supported by BRAZIL, requested the removal of the reference to the InternationalUndertaking. CANADA requested that the GPA should aim to assist countries in identifyingpriorities for action, but this suggestion was not supported by the US. BRAZIL preferredthat all aims be included in brackets. In a reference to the need for the GPA to promote thedevelopment of institutions, the US indicated they did not want to support the developmentof such institutions. ETHIOPIA, supported by BRAZIL, stated that development ofinstitutions is exactly what is required.

Structure and Organization of the Global Plan of Action: This section of the GPAprovides explanatory remarks on subsequent sections. In the part referring to Research andTechnology, BRAZIL sought language to include the concept of technology developmentand transfer, but the US did not support this.

IN SITU CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Surveying andInventorying Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: In the Drafting Group,the EU, the US and CANADA would not support language proposed by TANZANIA to“sustain” in situ resources. ETHIOPIA supported TANZANIA’s position and calledfor financial and technical support to survey and inventory in situ PGR. This text isnow in brackets.

Supporting On-Farm Management and Improvement of Plant Genetic Resources: Inplenary, INDIA explained that on-farm conservation was not necessarily in situconservation, since crops were not necessarily grown in the same field, and called for theGPA to pay more attention to ex situ conservation. NORWAY and COLOMBIA, onbehalf of GRULAC, stated that the GPA should give more attention to in situconservation. In support of this latter position, ETHIOPIA said that genetic erosionoccurred in gene banks and hence more effort should be placed on in situconservation. A representative of NGOs from Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaraguaand Brazil stated that twice as much money was spent on ex situ conservation asin situ conservation, and that gene banks were no more important than indigenousagriculture. FRANCE conceded that some developed countries needed in situprogrammes.

AUSTRALIA said that the GPA’s reference to pricing policy in support of farmmanagement might create a trade distortion. Later, in the Drafting Group, MALAYSIAstated that a pricing policy for on-farm conservation was an insurance policy to help insitu conservation rather than a trade distortion.

CANADA proposed text to the effect that farmers’ choice to grow new varieties of foodplants, also known as cultivars, may lead to genetic erosion. BRAZIL suggested text torefer to farmers being driven by market forces to grow new cultivars. The US did notsupport either proposal and suggested instead that improved productivity would reducepressure on fragile ecosystems.

At BRAZIL’s request, reference to forests in the long-term objectives and elsewhere in thetext was removed. The US wanted reference to farmers’ rights to be qualified by “theconcept of” so as not to prejudge other international negotiations. This proposal wassupported by BRAZIL but not by ETHIOPIA. Specific reference to the role of InternationalAgricultural Research Centres was removed at request of CANADA. ETHIOPIA,supported by MALAYSIA, wanted all text referring to the release of “unfinished varieties”to be deleted since it was not consistent with the CBD. AUSTRALIA supported INDIA’sproposal to remove particular reference to the role of CGIAR centers in identifyingagricultural plant species (landraces) for multiplication. ETHIOPIA commented in plenarythat they wanted the rights of the knowledge of farmers to be protected as a caveat topromoting research into their knowledge. Later, in the Drafting Group, the US, supportedby BRAZIL, suggested that rights of farmers’ knowledge be couched in terms of beingconsistent with national legislation.

In plenary, MALAYSIA expressed concern that the encouragement of on-farm research inthe GPA was not consistent with the CBD since it did not recognize the need for access onmutually agreed terms.

Assisting Farmers in Disaster Situations to Restore Agricultural Systems: The USwanted specific reference to the role of NGOs in disaster relief situations. BRAZILquestioned this. ETHIOPIA was concerned about reference to “private” organizations thatplay a major role in genetic erosion and proposed language on “national cooperation”consistent with the CBD. The GPA’s proposal to establish a multilateral fund for themultiplication of seeds in response to emergencies was supported by AUSTRALIA andBRAZIL, but not by JAPAN, the EU or SWITZERLAND. The US, supported by CANADAbut not by ETHIOPIA, suggested less definitive language, and added that the FAO shouldnot be the coordinating body for disaster situations.

Promoting In Situ Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Plants forFood and Agriculture: In the Drafting Group, BRAZIL, supported by AUSTRALIA,suggested that the title of this section be changed from “Wild Plants for Food andAgriculture” to “Wild Plants for Food Production”, hence removing further reference toforests and trees. CANADA and the US successfully argued that reference to “livelihood”security be replaced with “world food security” — again to remove any implication ofconserving plant species not directly related to food. BRAZIL propose that reference toindigenous peoples be omitted since this issue was being addressed within the UNCommission on Human Rights and was beyond the competence of the body. Later, in theDrafting Group, BRAZIL suggested that all references to the role of tribal and indigenouspeoples’ in managing resources in protected areas be deleted. CANADA disagreed.AUSTRALIA suggested that if language referring to indigenous peoples was to beremoved, reference to the role of women should be kept. During plenary, the Legal Counselfor FAO suggested that the term “indigenous peoples” in the GPA be replaced by “localand indigenous communities” so as to be consistent with Article 8(j) of the CBD.

In the continued deliberations of the Drafting Group, AUSTRALIA proposed text relatingto off-reserve management of PGR, but the US and BRAZIL thought the content of theproposal was too broad. FRANCE agreed with the importance of off-reserve management.Crisper wording was found.

The US, the EU and CANADA each submitted text that removed the suggestion thatgovernments should catalogue private collections of PGR so as to coordinate with insitu programmes. TURKEY submitted text suggesting that in situ conservationprogrammes should be linked with habitat protection, pollution prevention and land-useprogrammes. This proposal was rejected by the Drafting Group, primarily due toobjections by CANADA. TURKEY suggested additional activities for in situconservation, such as promoting under-utilized crops, planned and targeted collections,and promoting public awareness. This was accepted by the Drafting Group since it wasconsistent with the chapters of the GPA.

EX SITU CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Securing Existing Exsitu Collections: CANADA proposed reference to “securing” collections in thetitle of this section of the GPA be replaced by “sustaining”. In Plenary, ANGOLA statedthat countries urgently needed to carry out collecting missions to strengthen national exsitu collections. In the Drafting Group, the US did not support this proposal, stating thatthere was excess storage capacity in existing collections. ETHIOPIA disagreed.COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, suggested removal of text referring to excessive exsitu conservation costs, especially for non-unique species. This was accepted by theDrafting Group.

ANGOLA sought additional text to recognize the fact that countries lacking sufficient exsitu capacity are those with the most urgent food security problems. In considering thelong-term objectives of this part of the GPA, which refers to “sustaining” ex situcollections, COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, submitted text calling for the need tostrengthen cooperation among national programmes and international institutions. In theDrafting Group, the US did not support this text. During plenary, KENYA called for therehabilitation of existing ex situ collections. ECUADOR, on behalf of GRULAC andsupported by TANZANIA and ANGOLA, expressed grave concern that the intermediateobjectives of this section of the GPA placed too much emphasis on FAO programmes andnot enough on national efforts. The AFRICAN GROUP submitted text to the Drafting Groupto recognize the sovereign rights of the countries of origin as a prerequisite to the ongoingtransfer of genetic material as advocated in the GPA. The need to respect nationalsovereignty was reiterated later in the plenary by SYRIA. The US did not support this inthe Drafting Group and, supported by AUSTRALIA, modified the direct reference toobligations under the CBD in relation to access procedures. Later in the plenary,CANADA also requested that a direct reference to the CBD be removed. MALAYSIA, inresponse to CANADA’s comment, suggested that collections should be made inaccordance with national law.

The next section of the GPA referred to cooperation between the FAO, member countriesand relevant institutions. It appeared to be aimed at setting the context for futurenegotiations on the International Undertaking. CANADA picked up this nuance andsubmitted text to have direct reference to the International Undertaking be included in theGPA. This position was supported by ETHIOPIA, but not by BRAZIL or AUSTRALIA.ETHIOPIA, on behalf of the African Group, again sought text referring to “countries oforigin” rather than “source country” so as to be consistent with the CBD. This positionwas not supported by BRAZIL, the EU or the US. BRAZIL suggested that the term “sourcecountry” may also refer to a country holding material in a gene bank. The US supportedBRAZIL by giving the example that some material has been recombined with other materialso that the seed stock may now come from a number of countries. In plenary, RAFIsuggested that this section of the GPA placed too much emphasis on the development oflarge gene banks in developed countries. In reference to a call for training support in theGPA, both CANADA and the US proposed language to remove the imperative of impliedfinancial support. ETHIOPIA did not support this weaker language.

The following paragraph of the GPA called for sustainable funding for FAO networks. Inthe Drafting Group this concept was supported by FRANCE, ETHIOPIA and BRAZIL, butnot by the EU or the US.

COSTING OF THE GPA: Venezuela, on behalf of the G-77, noted that the costingof the GPA was not clear enough to serve as a basis for serious work and proposed that theSecretariat should try to produce a more precise estimate for Leipzig. The US underscoredits support for this idea in its opening statement, but expressed doubt as to the Secretariat’sability to accomplish this additional task in time for Leipzig. AUSTRALIA underscored theanomaly of trying to make progress on costing a GPA without making progress on the GPAitself. The EU noted that the GPA did not contain any operational elements and proposedgoing directly to the sources of expenditure by asking international institutions in the fieldof PGR to confirm the cost of their activities. The Secretariat stated that although itwelcomed any proposals on methodology for arriving at more precise and helpfuldocuments, it noted that it had only received 34 responses to its survey of membercountries on current expenditures. Other limiting factors, such as translation anddistribution, might extend an already time-consuming process.

The Drafting Group at this stage ran out of time to discuss further aspects of the GPAraised by countries during plenary sessions. Issues discussed at plenary that extendedbeyond this section of the GPA mainly focused on technology transfer. COLOMBIA, onbehalf of GRULAC, and supported by IRAN, stated that all countries need access totechnologies to carry out their activities. In addition to the numerous outstanding issues thatemerged from deliberations, the following sections of the GPA still need to be addressedin full: Utilization of PGR; Institutions and Capacity-Building; Costing of the GPA; andMajor Elements and Recommendations.


At the beginning of the Thursday afternoon session in plenary, VENEZUELA made astatement on behalf of the G-77 that set the tone and agenda for most of the remainingplenary sessions. The G-77 requested that all references to forests and forest geneticresources be removed from the GPA for the following reasons. First, there was no mandateto include forests: at its last session, the Commission had not agreed to include forests inthe GPA due to the issue’s highly contentious nature. Furthermore, Agenda 21 does notrefer to forests in relation to PGR. Second, the Commission should not prejudge theoutcomes of two critical processes already underway: the UN Commission on SustainableDevelopment’s Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), which focuses on forests, andnegotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking, which does not includeforests. The G-77 further stated that the Commission must demonstrate political will inrelation to the GPA. To this end, the G-77 proposed creating a contact group to startimmediate negotiations on the cost dimensions of the GPA (including identifying sources offunding) to reconsider the structure of the GPA (including identifying priority areas ofimplementation). Delegates first deliberated the statement pertaining to forests.

FOREST GENETIC RESOURCES: BRAZIL argued that the Secretariat hadexceeded its mandate by including forests in the GPA despite lack of resolution on thismatter at the last session of the Commission. He emphasized that major economic interestsshould not overshadow the FAO’s guiding principles of hunger relief and food security.GERMANY, BOLIVIA and FRANCE noted that many countries had prepared theirnational reports according to specific FAO guidelines (derived from the first extraordinarysession of this Commission), which did include forest resources.

In response to Germany’s request for legal counsel on the scope of the FAO mandate, theFAO Legal Counsel noted that the FAO mandate on food and agriculture includes forestsand fisheries, but that the factual nature of his statement should in no way determine theanswer. Thus, the Commission’s previous deliberations regarding the inclusion of forestgenetic resources in PGRFA had been inconclusive and, in the absence of any definitiveview, the question remains open for resolution by the Commission. From a strictly legalpoint of view, the FAO Legal Counsel later concluded, the Secretariat had no mandate toinclude forests in the GPA. ARGENTINA, CHINA, BRAZIL and FRANCE requested awritten legal opinion on a number of matters — including the competence of theCommission and the mandate of the Secretariat to include forests in the GPA — forconsideration by capitals prior to the Leipzig Conference.

MALAYSIA, supported by INDONESIA, argued that the introduction of the “new”dimension of forests into PGRFA would require postponing the Leipzig Conference andrenegotiating the entire GPA pending the results of the IPF. INDIA questioned the wisdomof introducing forests, an issue never before negotiated in any of the Commission’s sixsessions.

COLOMBIA, noting that developing countries are fully convinced of the importance offorest resources in agriculture, emphasized that their exclusion from the subject matter wassimply a practical interim measure to facilitate agreement at the Leipzig Conference. Theinclusion of forests into the GPA would introduce new complexities into the alreadydifficult negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking whose scoperemains difficult to define. CUBA and CAMEROON associated themselves with the G-77position and implored delegates not to get bogged down on an issue that could not beresolved at this stage.

CHINA noted that despite its opinion that forests is an important part of PGRFA, it wouldaccept the G-77 position. He noted that the political and legal linkages surrounding foodand forests were more complex than the scientific ones. As a compromise, he proposedleaving the matter for Leipzig until which time the Commission could adhere to thewording approved by the last FAO Conference: “biological resources”. TURKEY notedthat most plant species are associated with forest vegetation and, as such, forest geneticresources should be retained in the text.

The EU noted that the G-77 statement corresponded exactly to the GRULAC position. Herecalled the EU position, shared by many countries outside the EU, which supported theinclusion of forests as a key part of PGR. He noted that this is a legal matter in which theEU did not want to enter and proposed that the matter remain open for Leipzig until whichtime forest genetic resources could be considered without special emphasis. FRANCEunderscored the importance of creating linkages with the IPF and proposed retaining allPGRs of forest origin in the GPA — if only in brackets — for resolution in Leipzig.FINLAND stated that it would be very short-sighted to exclude forests from the GPA,especially in light of the uncertain timeline of the IPF. Although countries have sovereigntyover their forest genetic resources, they may require support and funds for the maintenanceof native forests.

Following presentation of these positions in plenary, the Chair proposed a recess forinformal consultations. Upon return to plenary, the EU reiterated the importance of forestgenetic resources, but in order to facilitate constructive progress on the GPA, the EUannounced its reluctant agreement to remove all specific references to them — on thecondition that the Commission return to this issue as a matter of priority after the LeipzigConference. In response to ARGENTINA’s question regarding whether conclusion of theIPF would constitute an appropriate time to resume consideration of the matter, the EUresponded, “in principle yes”, but noted the difficulty in forecasting the work of the IPF. Inthanking the EU for its positive response, COLOMBIA requested that delegates considerthe G-77’s call for “political support” in the same spirit.

FUNDING AND FOLLOW-UP: In response to the G-77 proposal to create acontact group to address financing and follow-up of the GPA, the US underscored thedecision of the sixth session of the Commission to define commitments for theimplementation of the GPA at its next regular session and called on the G-77 to abide bythis decision in the same spirit of cooperation previously demonstrated by the EU. Hefurther explained that discussion of financing and implementation would be dependent onconcrete proposals for action. This position was shared by CANADA, NORWAY, the EU, AUSTRALIA, the NETHERLANDS, SWITZERLAND, POLAND, AUSTRIA, FRANCEand the UK.

NORWAY, underscoring its status as one of the few countries that is well above the 0.7%of GNP for ODA mark, indicated its general willingness to discuss any aspect of funding,including new funding. However, such a discussion needed to be justified on the basis ofclear needs and priorities and might be better placed at a higher level meeting.AUSTRALIA emphasized that no decisions on financial or institutional arrangementsshould be made outside the International Undertaking process, since its revision will havean impact on the implementation of the GPA.

FRANCE expressed its strong political will towards making a binding commitment tofunding the GPA. However, in support of the NETHERLANDS’ comment that the draftGPA was still a working framework, indicated its inability to assign funds to unidentifiedprojects and priorities. The UK, later supported by TURKEY, urged delegates to return toconsideration of the GPA as the only way of giving practical effect to the Commission’sdeliberations.

VENEZUELA, on behalf of the G-77, revised its earlier proposal for a contact group andcalled for clear proof of political will. COLOMBIA noted that a responsible GPA mustcontain financial arrangements and without a show of commitment to this effect, the meetingcannot move forward. BRAZIL stated that it would be diversional to study the GPAwithout a “politically safe” statement from donor countries. MALAYSIA noted that withouta budget, the draft GPA was merely a technical plan rather than a global one, and proposedthat it be adopted in Leipzig as a technical document in the way that an auditor qualifies anannual report.

Noting the impasse on this issue, the Chair adjourned plenary on Thursday evening andsuspended Friday morning’s plenary to allow for informal consultations amongdelegations. Heads of regional groups were requested to keep the Bureau informed ofdeliberations and on this basis, a Chair’s text was presented to the Friday afternoonplenary as follows: “We recognize the need for financial resources in order to implementthe GPA and we commit ourselves to discuss this matter during the Leipzig Conference.”

The US noted that the text closely approximated an acceptable position and proposedreplacing “matter” with “process.” Linked with this, the US proposed amendments to thedraft provisional agenda for Leipzig, so as to read “Adoption of the Report and the GPA”(deleting “and recommendations for its implementation and financing” in item 8) and“Review of possibilities for the implementation and financing of the GPA” (deletingbrackets around item 9). Should the term “process” not prove acceptable, then the term“matter” would be conditioned by item 9.

PAKISTAN argued that replacing “matter” with “process” represented an unwantedchange of concepts rather than a mere clarification, noting that his delegation did not wishto discuss a process that may not address the matter: financial resources. ETHIOPIAproposed that “process” could be introduced as a separate agenda item while “matter”could be defined in a footnote.

VENEZUELA stated that although the Chair’s text did not satisfy the aspirations of the G-77, it was prepared to accept the text provided it was not amended — to reopen debate onthis issue would mean reopening all the other G-77 points. VENEZUELA did howeveraccept the US proposal regarding agenda item 9 as “logical”. MEXICO, ETHIOPIA,IRAN, PAKISTAN, COSTA RICA and CHINA also voiced their support for the G-77position.

While CANADA and AUSTRALIA concurred with the US proposal in its entirety, the EUsupported only the proposed amendments to the agenda. The impasse was broken whenCANADA drew applause for its concession to accept the Chair’s text without amendmentswith the term “matter” conditioned by item 9, as originally proposed by the US.VENEZUELA proposed to drop the term “financing” from item 8 because it was now dealtwith in item 9. Just when the issue appeared to be resolved, FRANCE proposed additionalwording that would place the financing of the GPA within the context of the entire FAOGlobal System. Rather than reopening debate on an issue on which consensus had beendifficult to achieve, the Chair requested that FRANCE withdraw its proposal andrecommended that the Global System be addressed under another item on the Leipzigagenda. FRANCE, AUSTRALIA and NORWAY went on record in the final report of theCommission as having requested that an explicit link be made between the GPA and theGlobal System, including the International Undertaking.

FORMAL STATEMENTS: Following closure of the GPA funding debate onFriday, VENEZUELA issued a formal statement in which the G-77: expressed deep regretthat their proposals for the examination of financial matters were not accepted by thedeveloped countries; recalled that the GPA should be complementary and consistent withthe provisions of the CBD, in particular Article 20 regarding financial mechanisms; andconsidered that the negotiations of the financial mechanisms for the full implementation ofthe GPA should not prejudice the negotiations for the revision of the InternationalUndertaking.

The following day, CANADA made a formal statement in plenary on behalf ofAUSTRALIA, the CZECH REPUBLIC, the EC and its member States, JAPAN, NEWZEALAND, NORWAY, POLAND, SLOVAKIA, SWITZERLAND, TURKEY and the USin which these countries: recognize the importance of establishing a sound process forconsidering the financial implications of the GPA but do not consider that all relevantinformation is yet available for an in-depth discussion on implementation; propose that aprocess for discussing the implementation and financing of the GPA — according to thearrangements agreed at the sixth session of the Commission — be agreed to at Leipzig; andstate that the International Undertaking and the GPA are interlinked as part of the FAOGlobal System underpinning world food security and that their financing should bediscussed accordingly.

Both statements were included in the body of the final report.


Plenary began formal consideration of the draft Leipzig Declaration on Wednesdayevening. The Secretariat introduced document CGRFA-EX2/96/4, which contains apreliminary draft of a “declaration that might be adopted during the Fourth InternationalTechnical Conference (the ‘Leipzig Declaration’), either as part of the Global Plan ofAction or separately”, prepared by the sixth session of the Commission for furthernegotiation at its second extraordinary session. The Secretariat noted that the text had beenslightly amended in order to reflect the preparatory process that took place largely after theadoption of the report of the sixth session of the Commission (as contained in Appendix Gof document CGRFA-6/95/REP). However, the bracketed text that emerged from theCommission’s sixth session remained for consideration at this session.

Following completion of the single plenary session devoted to the draft Declaration, theAFRICAN GROUP, GRULAC and the EU each tabled their own written versions of theLeipzig Declaration. These regional drafts were consolidated into a new draft Declarationthat was heavily debated in plenary and will serve as the basis for further negotiation inLeipzig. The EU text represented a substantial rewrite of the whole declaration.

In plenary, countries made initial comments and then worked through the LeipzigDeclaration (LD) paragraph-by-paragraph. A large amount of the LD remains in bracketssince there was no time to consolidate the various comments and statements presented bydelegations and regional groups.

In opening the general discussion, COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, said that the LDneeded to support the strengthening of institutional capacities in developing countries andto fit within the context of the CBD and Agenda 21. The EU called for a delay indiscussions until the GPA had been resolved, stating that this was a Leipzig Declarationand not a Rome Declaration.

The introductory paragraph committed countries to the conservation and sustainabledevelopment of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and to the fair andequitable sharing of benefits arising out of their use. COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC,and supported by the AFRICAN GROUP, asked for text to refer to the need for benefit-sharing arising from knowledge, innovations and practices. CANADA did not support thistext. The EU, supported by the NETHERLANDS, FINLAND, SENEGAL and CONGOwanted a reference to forests in the LD. BRAZIL, supported by MALAYSIA, MEXICO,ARGENTINA, INDONESIA, INDIA and URUGUAY, on behalf of GRULAC, opposed anyreference to forests. The US, supported by JAPAN, requested a reference to food securityin defining PGRFA. The US also wanted brackets around the reference to the CBD sincesome countries were not signatories to this convention. FRANCE suggested that referenceto the CBD was needed somewhere in the Declaration.

The second paragraph referred to the sovereign rights of countries over their biologicalresources. This text created difficulties for some countries. The UK was concerned that thetext was paraphrasing the CBD and this was dangerous. The EU recommended deletion ofthe entire text. ETHIOPIA, supported by SYRIA and MALAYSIA, wanted the text toremain. The AFRICAN GROUP, in their written proposal, wanted specific recognition onthe need for “agricultural” development. GRULAC presented text stating the need for allcountries to have PGR if they are to meet changes in the environment, including climatechange.

The third paragraph referred to the importance of PGR for world food security.GERMANY said the text did not refer to growing human populations and the need for moreefficiency. The EU provided more detailed comments based on its written text and referredto the need for countries to diversify agricultural production. This new text, with minormodifications from the US, was supported by INDONESIA. GRULAC preferred theoriginal text.

The fourth paragraph acknowledged the role of farmers, women, indigenous populations,breeders and scientists in conserving PGR. The US, supported by the UK and YEMEN,wanted reference to women deleted. The NETHERLANDS, VENEZUELA and COSTARICA wanted reference to women retained. Some countries had difficulties with theterminology referring to indigenous populations. INDIA preferred the term “indigenouspeoples”. The corresponding EU text (paragraph 3) noted the speedy loss of diversity infields and forests and in gene banks.

The fifth paragraph referred to the concern that many gene banks cannot maintaininternational standards. COLOMBIA, supported by BRAZIL, called for the removal of textreferring to forests. This was opposed by NORWAY, FINLAND, CONGO and INDIA.

The sixth paragraph acknowledged the weaknesses in national and international capacity toassess PGRFA. INDIA asked that a particular reference to developing countries to beremoved.

The seventh paragraph acknowledged the need to access and share PGRFA. COLOMBIAwanted reference to access to technology and the need to guarantee intellectual propertyrights. The US wanted direct reference to world food security.

The eighth paragraph acknowledges the importance of the need to secure ex situ andin situ PGR. The AFRICAN GROUP wanted a change from the reference to“securing” PGR to “sustaining” PGR. GRULAC presented substantial alterations to thetext. They sought specific reference to recognizing the need of indigenous and localcommunities and recognizing the need for preferential access for developing countries toappropriate technology.

The ninth paragraph notes the need to integrate the best traditional knowledge and moderntechnologies. SYRIA asked for a reference to researchers in national and internationalprogrammes. GRULAC’s written submission deleted this paragraph.

The tenth paragraph was a pledge for common action. GRULAC called for a commitmentbased on the CBD, Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration.

The eleventh paragraph is a vow to implement the Global Plan of Action. GRULACrevised this text to call for the mobilization of new and additional financial resources. Thecorresponding EU text (paragraph 4) stated the importance of long-term nationalcommitments to integrated national plans and a commitment to the priorities yet to bedetermined in the Global Plan of Action. The EU also made specific reference to theInternational Undertaking, suggesting that it will include a multilateral framework onaccess and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits.

The twelfth paragraph is a commitment to the Declaration and a further commitment to theGPA. GRULAC deleted this text in its document.

The large amount of brackets still remaining in the LD indicate that there is a long way togo before some of the key issues are resolved. The text, including three versions of the lastthree paragraphs, was sent onto Leipzig for further negotiation.


The Commission considered the process for the further negotiation of the revision of theInternational Undertaking. Discussions were based on document CGRFA-EX2/96/6, whichprovides information on developments since the Commission’s last session, where it wasagreed that the current session should “review any recent developments relating to theharmonization of the International Undertaking with the Convention on BiologicalDiversity” in preparation for substantive negotiations to be held at the third extraordinarysession.

Plenary discussion on this item focused on matters of procedure rather than substance. Inparticular, delegates deliberated the timing of the third extraordinary session of theCommission, especially as it relates to the third meeting of the Conference of Parties to theCBD; the timing, cost and mandate of a Working Group meeting to prepare a simplifieddraft negotiating text; and the status of observers in such a Working Group.

The Commission ultimately agreed that the third extraordinary session will be held in earlyDecember 1996 in order to further negotiations on the revision of the InternationalUndertaking. Due to the substantial savings in holding meetings back-to-back, immediatelyprior to this meeting, the Commission’s working group will convene with a twofold task:commenting on the structure of the Third Negotiating Draft, and preparing a simplified drafttext concentrating on the three main issues of scope, access and equitable sharing ofbenefits. In addressing policy matters, this draft text will also draw on further proposalsmade by governments at the Leipzig Conference and technical information in agreementsfrom the Conference. Members of the Commission who are not members of the workinggroup will attend as fully participating observers.

Reflecting concerns raised by numerous delegations during the course of plenary debate,the report stresses that any simplified text resulting from the deliberations of the workinggroup should in no way be a substitute for the proposals already contained in the ThirdNegotiating Draft. It will be for the Commission itself to evaluate the usefulness of anysuch text as a potential focus for future negotiations. Reflecting concerns raised byLESOTHO, the report further notes that every effort would be made to facilitate financiallythe participation of developing countries.


Delegates met well into Saturday night due to drafting and translation delays. TheCommission agreed on several matters related to preparations for Leipzig, including aprovisional agenda and organization of work. They also agreed to forward the first evercomprehensive Report on the State of the World’s PGR. The report adopted by theCommission contained important gaps since the documents that were to be the main outputof the session remained unresolved. Nonetheless, delegates agreed to a process for theirresolution. Most notably, delegates endorsed Italy’s proposal that the working group meetimmediately prior to the Leipzig Conference in order to further consolidate the GPA. TheCommission adjourned its meeting at 2:00 am Sunday morning.


The Commission’s session reflected the painstaking negotiation process through whichgovernments begin to take ownership of the documents prepared by the FAO secretariat.Many delegations expressed their frustration about the staggeringly slow progress andpersistent procedural problems that characterized the meeting. This frustration clearlymanifested itself in the final plenary when a number of African countries expressed theirreluctance to postpone the next extraordinary session until December 1996. Both publicinterest and private sector NGOs were united in their concern about the substantive stand-off and called for the meeting to move forward. Nevertheless, the slow progress reflectsthe complex and controversial nature of the issues involved.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CBD AND THE GPA: Several delegationssuggested that the turgid nature of the meeting related to the fact that some governments andinstitutions have yet to come to grips with what the Convention on Biological Diversity hasset in place: a new regime for addressing in situ and ex situ plant geneticresources. Similarly, some delegates privately commented that they felt the FAO was itselfgrappling with the implications of the CBD. The linkage between the FAO and the CBDSecretariat appears to be problematic. Several delegations noted the conspicuous absenceof the CBD Secretariat and urged its Executive Secretary to personally attend the LeipzigConference. However, too much can be read into this lack of representation, as it maysimply relate to the fact that the CBD Secretariat is currently without staff. Somedelegations commented that the US’s regular call for the removal of any direct reference tothe CBD in the text of the GPA may well reflect a concern that such reference mightcompromise US ratification of the CBD. A number of delegations were frustrated by thisreluctance to link the GPA to the principles of the CBD, in particular its provisionsregarding equitable benefit-sharing and technology transfer. G-77 members were frustratedin their attempts to introduce CBD language into the Drafting Group’s text. The timing ofthe next session to run after the next CBD Conference of the Parties effectively places theball in the CBD’s court to come up with some meaningful results on issues that overlapwith the GPA and the International Undertaking.

INTERNATIONAL UNDERTAKING: Clearly the revision of the InternationalUndertaking will be a significant issue for COP consideration. However, whether progresswill be made on the IU remains to be seen. The Drafting Group’s protracted, word-by-word negotiation of the Global Plan of Action may serve as a good indicator offorthcoming negotiations for the revision of the IU. Some countries signaled their lack offaith in negotiating a revised IU. Some OECD (and some G-77) countries clearly did notwant reference to the IU within the text of the GPA — fully cognizant of the fact that the IUwill be the principle instrument for approving new and additional funds to support theGPA. Without a financial commitment stemming from the IU, the GPA is likely to betreated as a set of broad recommendations without any commitment to their implementation.The G-77 clearly wanted an assurance that the principles enshrined in the CBD relating tosovereign rights over genetic resources and access arrangements under mutually agreedterms will be reflected in the IU. The EU statement suggested these principles have notbeen set in concrete. Old CBD negotiation battles are likely to resurface if commonlanguage is not found soon.

Of course, the International Undertaking raises several critical issues that need to beresolved. In addition to financial commitments, some delegations pointed to the perplexingproblem of determining which legal regime should apply to ex situ collectionsgathered before the CBD’s entry into force. Several countries suggested that the concept ofVavilovian Centres of Origin should be revisited and used as a means of identifying thecountry of origin in order to facilitate access and benefit-sharing arrangements. Meshingthe concept of farmers’ rights with Articles 8(j) and 10(c) of the CBD, which relate torecognizing the rights of local and indigenous communities, subject to national legislation,is another challenge. Many delegations expressed their dismay that the issue of farmers’rights was not adequately addressed and are looking towards Leipzig for the issue to beresurrected.

EX SITU PROGRAMMES: In discussions over the GPA, many G-77countries expressed concern that the FAO had over-emphasized the CGIAR networksrather than supporting national ex situ programmes. Many countries see a clearnecessity to maintain their own national gene banks for their own food security,particularly as more commercial food crop varieties are controlled under intellectualproperty regimes. Because the development of national ex situ programmes wouldcreate new and additional financial burdens on the global donor community, sourcing newmoney is a pivotal issue. As GPA deliberations progressed, language suggesting orimplying the need for new financial resources inevitably wound up in brackets. Anythingthat implied a financial commitment was asked to be withdrawn by the donor countries. Itremains to be seen whether Germany will be able to garner commitments for new financialresources from donor countries as a means of securing success in Leipzig.

The meeting also heard a variety of opinions as to whether ex situ collections weremore important than in situ conservation measures. The debate did not follow theusually North-South divide. Developing countries, which are centers of origin of food plantspecies, were, of course, strong advocates of in situ measures, although many alsorecognized the need to establish complementary ex situ collections. A number ofNGOs weighed into this debate in support for in situ on-farm conservation based ontraditional practices. NGOs also expressed their concern that the FAO and governmentswere locked into the mind set of bigger is better, rather than supporting local communities.

FORESTS: The strong position taken by the G-77 in insisting upon the removal ofall references to forests and forest genetic resources in the GPA represents an interestingdevelopment. In earlier sessions, some G-77 countries, notably from Africa, supported theinclusion of forest genetic resources in the GPA, citing the importance of some tree speciesas sources of food. GRULAC’s proposal to refer forest genetic resources to theIntergovernmental Panel on Forests may be problematic, as the terms of reference for theIPF do not specifically allow an entree into this issue-area. As a way forward, severaldelegations noted that the next COP of the CBD may need to establish a process fordiscussion on forests and forest genetic resources — perhaps in line with Sweden’spreviously expressed interest in a CBD working group on forests.

LOOKING AHEAD TO LEIPZIG: The issues surrounding world food security areinfinitely complex and profoundly important. Given the short timeframe between thismeeting and the Leipzig Conference, sorting through the morass of unresolved issues willbe the real challenge. The strong political statements put forth by the G-77 and a number ofOECD countries will set the stage for Leipzig. It remains to be seen whether theConference will mark a rapprochement or entrenchment of positions.


FOURTH INTERNATIONAL TECHNICAL CONFERENCE ON PGR: Thismeeting will take place in Leipzig, Germany, from 17-23 June 1996. The meeting will bepreceded by a two-day meeting of the Working Group of the FAO Commission on GeneticResources for Food and Agriculture to make further progress on the draft Global Plan ofAction.

EXPERT MEETING ON INTRODUCTION OF ALIEN SPECIES: This meeting,which is sponsored by Norway in cooperation with UNESCO and IUCN, will be held inTrondheim, Norway, from 1-5 July 1996.

OPEN-ENDED WORKING GROUP ON BIOSAFETY: The first meeting of theworking group on biosafety, which was established by the Conference of the Parties to theConvention on Biological Diversity, will meet in Aarhus, Denmark, from 22-26 July 1996.

CBD SBSTTA-2: The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical andTechnological Advice to the COP of the Convention on Biological Diversity will meet atthe headquarters of the Secretariat in Montreal, Canada, from 2-6 September 1996. Thesubstantive theme will be “Terrestrial Ecosystems.”

INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON FORESTS: The third meeting of UNCommission on Sustainable Development’s IPF is scheduled for 9-20 September inGeneva, Switzerland.

IUCN WORLD CONSERVATION CONGRESS: The Congress will be held inMontreal, Canada, from 13-23 October 1996. The theme will be “Caring for the Earth”.

CBD COP-3: The third meeting of the COP to the Convention on BiologicalDiversity will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 4-15 November 1996, with aMinisterial Segment from 13-14 November 1996.

FAO WORLD FOOD SUMMIT: A World Food Summit on the theme “RenewingGlobal Commitment to Fight Hunger” will be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 13-17 November 1996.

EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF THE COMMISSION ON PLANT GENETICRESOURCES: The FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculturewill meet for its Third Extraordinary Session, from 9-12 December 1996, to furthernegotiations on the revision of the International Undertaking in line with the Convention onBiological Diversity. The session will be preceded by a two-day meeting of the workinggroup.

SEVENTH SESSION OF THE FAO COMMISSION ON GENETIC RESOURCESFOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE: This meeting is tentatively scheduled for May1997 at FAO Headquarters in Rome.

Further information