Report of main proceedings for 19 June 1996

4th International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (ITCPGR-4)

The third day of the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant GeneticResources for Food and Agriculture (ITCPGR-4) commenced with a Working Group(WG) on the Global Programme of Action (GPA). In the afternoon, the WG created aContact Group on Farmers’ Rights (FR) which met following the WG’s session. TheContact Group on implementation and financing of the GPA met for the second day. TheWG reconvened in the evening to discuss results of the contact groups and continueddeliberations into the night.

OPEN-ENDED WORKING GROUP ON GPA

The Working Group (WG) continued deliberations on the GPA. VENEZUELA,supported by CANADA, COLOMBIA, GERMANY, NORWAY and the US, proposedtext relating to the “desirability of sharing of benefits from the use of traditionalknowledge, innovations and practices...” which was adopted. In a paragraph relating toin situ conservation and the role of farmers, the US proposed reference to “marketbased” farmer “owned” cooperatives, explaining that this was consensus language of theUN. ZIMBABWE and GHANA opposed this language. BANGLADESH proposedadding “agencies”, “NGOs” and farmer “owned” cooperatives in relation to linkagesbetween farmers and communities.

Delegates discussed bracketed text referring to “the concept of Farmers’ Rights,” asdefined by FAO Resolution 5/89. Outlining several legal problems associated with FR, andthe lack of internationally accepted “normative standards,” the US emphasised that “theconcept of” FR was the only acceptable formulation. VENEZUELA supported byPAPUA NEW GUINEA, CAMEROON, BANGLADESH, COLOMBIA, EGYPT,SUDAN, BRAZIL sought removal of “the concept of.” SWEDEN proposed language tolink FR, IU and CBD. MAURITIUS proposed adding the phrase “...and/or nationallegislation” to the end of the bracketed text. MALAYSIA, speaking on behalf of thedeveloping countries of ASIA, stated that FR represents a form of crop insurance for allcountries, a reward system to farming communities to conserve PGR. The CHAIRencouraged delegates to consult informally and return to this issue later.

COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, MEXICO, SENEGAL, MALAYSIA on behalf ofthe developing countries of ASIA, EGYPT on behalf of the Middle East region, PERU,NIGERIA, ARGENTINA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA and CONGO supported the removalof brackets from the sentence ensuring “the observance of the sovereign rights of thecountries of origin” in the paragraph on long-term objectives to sustain existing exsitu collections. CONGO noted that the principle of sovereignty is enshrined in theCBD, while SENEGAL highlighted the right to monitor material given to internationalcentres. The EU, the US, AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND requested deletion of thesentence. The CHAIR requested Colombia, the US, Italy and Malaysia to developcompromise text informally.

Delegates then addressed bracketed text on ex situ accessions which read:“[Inadequately duplicated materials should be multiplied and placed appropriately insecure storage. Excess [additional] ex situ duplications of accessions would bemaintained at the discretion and expense of countries].” There was general agreement withPOLAND’s proposals to replace “inadequately duplicated materials” with “materials notyet duplicated”, and to delete “excess” in the second sentence. BRAZIL, supported byCOLOMBIA, noted its preference for deletion of the entire bracketed text.

CANADA stated the importance of maintaining the text to provide a guide for action inthis area, including for funding agencies. BRAZIL, supported by COLOMBIA, and laterby PERU suggested changing “should” to “could” in the first sentence, and deletion of thesecond sentence. CANADA, later supported by the PHILIPPINES, INDIA on behalf ofdeveloping countries of ASIA and POLAND strongly reiterated the need to retain“should” in order not to soften international obligations in this area, and to retain thesecond sentence, as a logical complement to the first. In response, BRAZIL proposedamended text which retained “should” but added “with the full observance of applicableinternational agreements, and national legislation” to the end of the sentence. He alsoproposed retaining the second sentence if the reference to “expense” was removed. Thetext was adopted with these amendments.

The US supported a reference to “unrestricted” in the subparagraph calling upongovernments, the private sector, and institutions to “facilitate [unrestricted] access toPGRFA stored ex situ” stating that this is necessary to ensure world food security.SENEGAL noted that restriction would foster duplication. The EU, supported byZIMBABWE, EGYPT, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, KENYA and MEXICO, proposeddeleting the reference to “unrestricted”. VENEZUELA, COLOMBIA, MALAYSIA andTANZANIA cited the need for consistency with the CBD. IRAN cautioned against thefuture implications of “unrestricted” for FR and sovereignty. ECUADOR noted that“unrestricted access” is inconstent with the Code of Access negotiated by Andeancountries. JAPAN stated that “unrestricted access” should apply to public domainPGRFA, not private sector PGRFA. PERU noted that “unrestricted” may impose futurelimitations. CANADA, supported by GERMANY, noted that “unrestricted” in the GPAwould pre-judge IU negotiations. The US agreed to delete “unrestricted” and thesubparagraph was adopted.

The paragraph on policy and strategy of governments cooperating with organisations “inparticular, the CGIAR,” and the private sector to expand core PGR collections to facilitateuse was adopted as amended by CANADA and MALAYSIA to read cooperation with“organisations including international agricultural research centres.” The subparagraphreferring to “financial support” of evaluation programmes for crop species was adoptedwith amendments by the US, later modified by EGYPT on behalf of AFRICA and theNEAR EAST and supported by COLOMBIA, to “give appropriate financial support.” Theparagraph on “technical and financial support” for multiplication of core collectiongermplasm was amended by the US to read “appropriate technical and financial support”and adopted.

Delegates accepted the CHAIR’s proposal to delete brackets around the words “[Supportshould be given to] national systems, regional networks...” in capacity building for geneticenhancement. In a subsequent paragraph on promoting higher levels of genetic diversity,COLOMBIA’s proposal, later supported by CANADA, to delete text which read “[tominimize regulatory and legislative obstacles to these objectives]” was accepted. In afollowing paragraph, the US proposed adding the qualifier “relevant” to text oncoordinating requests for “[financial and technical] assistance” in promotingcommercialization of under-utilized crops. The text was adopted as amended.

Delegates then discussed bracketed text in a reference to a programme “to assist in thecreation of specialized niche markets for biodiverse food crops to act as a positivestimulus to farmers to grow landraces/farmers’ varieties, [heritage and traditional]varieties, and other under-utilized crops.” CANADA clarified that “heritage varieties”referred to those that were not in modern use, and that such varieties were extremelyimportant to his country’s farmers. After delegates pointed to the difficulty of translating“heritage varieties” into Russian, Spanish, and French, CANADA, later supported byPOLAND and the US, proposed the term “obsolete varieties” as taken from the IU.BRAZIL, noting that it was not a member of the IU, concurred with the change, and thetext was adopted as amended.

Delegates discussed a paragraph concerning whether to “help guide” or “cooperate with”international research centres. The US, supported by the EU, IRAN and TURKEY,claimed that the GPA was referring to partnerships and hence should use “cooperatewith.” TANZANIA (on behalf of the AFRICAN GROUP) supported by BUKINA FASOpreferred “help guide,” but later agreed with BRAZIL that both formulations wereappropriate. IRAN sought reference to “regional” networks, but TURKEY and BRAZILopposed this.

In a new section entitled “Developing Effective Mechanisms for Technology Transfer,”FRANCE, supported by ITALY, TURKEY, CANADA, the US and AUSTRALIA,proposed that reference to technology transfer should be incorporated throughout the textrather than comprise a separate section. COLOMBIA supported by ETHIOPIA andBANGLADESH wanted this new text to remain. He emphasized that technology transferneeded separate consideration, because of the linkage between the transfer of genetictechnologies and intellectual property rights. The matter was referred for informalconsultations.

MALAYSIA, on behalf of developing countries of ASIA, proposed priority activities forbenefit-sharing, one of the GPA’s three key objectives which had yet to beoperationalized. Several delegations, including EGYPT, PERU and INDIA registeredtheir strong support for the proposal. CAMEROON on behalf of AFRICA supported theproposal, citing the need to enshrine FR in a legal mechanism without which farmers aremarginalized and exploited.

SWEDEN, later supported by NORWAY, noted that while he favors the elements of theproposal, FR as a legal mechanism has not been agreed upon internationally and theproper place for such consideration was within the revision of the IU in harmony with theCBD. Affirming that it did not accept the concept of FR as any form of legal mechanism,the US stated that the text was “totally unacceptable,” “totally outside the scope of theGPA”and “prejudicial” to the outcome of the IU process as agreed upon by the CGFRA. JAPAN, the EU and SWITZERLAND maintained that the IU rather than the GPA wasthe appropriate element within the FAO Global System to address FR. AUSTRALIA andFRANCE noted that wording in the GPA which recognizes the IU process might serve asa goodwill gesture.

Noting the polarized positions on the issue, the CHAIR called on Malaysia, Egypt,Colombia, Italy, the US, Sweden, Japan and any other interested governments to form asmall contact group on FR, to be chaired by Australia.

IN THE CORRIDORS I

Discussions on Farmers’ Rights dominated talk in the corridors today, and was the subjectof an NGO press conference, where the US position calling for retention of the phrase“the concept of” before Farmers Rights was denounced. Some delegations suggested thatreference to Farmers’ Rights should be removed entirely from the GPA, however, manyothers preferred its retention.

IN THE CORRIDORS II

The Contact Group on technology transfer decided to incorporate language on technologytransfer throughout the text of the GPA rather than as a separate priority activity. TheContact Group on finance continued its consideration of a synthesized text incorporatingreference to “new and additional financial resources,” though some observers predictedcompromise language without strong funding commitments. The Contact Group on FRcontinued its deliberations.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: Plenary is scheduled to reconvene today and seek adoption of theGPA, and then consider the outcome of the CG on the implementation and financing of the GPA. The Plenary will next decide how to negotiate the Leipzig Declaration, giventhat only seven sentences are not in brackets. A Working Group to negotiate theDeclaration is expected.

Further information

Participants

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