Green leafed seedlings on black plastic pots

11th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the ITPGRFA Multilateral System

16–18 April 2024 | Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Rome, Italy

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture – ITPGRFA

About

Delegates will try to enhance how countries share plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the benefits arising from innovation, hoping advances made in other relevant negotiations will help resolve their differences.

Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) are the raw material for agricultural innovation. They help to increase and diversify food production and they play a key role in increasing resilience to pests and diseases and in ensuring adaptation of the food production to climate change. Given the distinctive features of PGRFA or agricultural biodiversity and the need to ensure continuity of agricultural research and development while ensuring that benefits reach farmers in developing countries, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was adopted on 3 November 2001 by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The ITPGRFA has established a Multilateral System (MLS) of access and benefit-sharing (ABS) through a Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA).

The MLS works as a global gene pool that standardizes and facilitates access to a list of crops considered vital for food security (Annex I of the Treaty), while institutionalizing benefit-sharing. However, a set of challenges have arisen with regard to the ability of the MLS to generate and share monetary benefits. Thus, a Working Group was established in 2013 with the task to enhance the functioning of the MLS.  

The history of the process is long and complex. The Working Group conducted negotiations for six years (2013-2019) to revise the SMTA used for exchanges of material in the MLS and on amending the list of crops in Annex I of the Treaty. At its ninth meeting in 2019, the Working Group reached a tentative compromise to amend Annex I to include all PGRFA under the management and control of parties and in the public domain, in ex situ conditions, while allowing for reasoned national exemptions for a limited number of native species. Negotiations on the draft revised SMTA, however, were not concluded, with benefit-sharing from the use of digital sequence information (DSI) and the rates for benefit-sharing payments as the main outstanding issues. Even after holding an additional meeting, no consensus could be reached.

The negotiations were terminated at the eighth session of the Treaty’s Governing Body in November 2019, when delegates could not reach agreement on the package of measures to enhance the functioning of the MLS or to continue intersessional work. Benefit-sharing from the use of DSI on PGRFA was identified as the deal-breaker.

At its ninth meeting in 2022, the Governing Body decided to relaunch negotiations and appointed Sunil Archak (India) and Michael Ryan (Australia) as Working Group Co-Chairs.  At its tenth session in November 2023, the Governing Body endorsed the suggestion of the Working Group to use the “June 2019 draft package” as a starting point for its further work; requested the Co-Chairs to give early attention to the three identified “hotspots”—DSI/genetic sequence data (GSD), expansion of Annex I, and payment structure and rates—and invited them to publish an updated timeline and package of relevant information.

The eleventh meeting of the Working Group takes place in the context of important developments in biodiversity- and ABS-related fora. In December 2022, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, including goals and targets on benefit-sharing from the use of genetic resources and DSI. The COP also established a multilateral mechanism for benefit-sharing from the use of DSI. In June 2023, a new legally binding agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) was adopted after 17 years of negotiations, and includes provisions on benefit-sharing, marine genetic resources, and DSI. Ongoing negotiations under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) also seek to establish a multilateral ABS system for pathogens with pandemic potential and their DSI/GSD, looking at the Treaty as a potential model.

The Working Group will meet from 16-18 April 2024 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. It is composed of regional spokespersons: up to five from Africa; up to five from Europe; up to five from Asia; up to five from Latin America and the Caribbean; up to three from Near East; up to two from North America; and up to two from South West Pacific. Civil society, the seed industry, farmers’ organizations, and research and academia, including the CGIAR Consortium, are represented by two spokespersons each.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) writers for this meeting are Elsa Tsioumani, Ph.D.; Jennifer Bansard; and Mike Muzurakis. The Digital Editor is Anastasia Rodopoulou. The Editor is Pam Chasek, Ph.D.

View past and future events

Past event

2nd ITPGR High-level Round Table

Past event

1st Meeting of the CGRFA acting as the Interim Committee for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Past event

ITPGRFA GB 6 Information Events: Outcomes of the Intersessional Working Group on the MLS, and Farmers’ Rights

Past event

6th Session of the Governing Body (GB 6) of the ITPGRFA

Past event

7th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA GB 7)

Past event

8th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing (OWG-EFMLS-8) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

Past event

9th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing (OWG-EFMLS-9) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Past event

Resumed 9th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing (OWG-EFMLS-9) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Past event

8th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Past event

1st Special Session of the ITPGRFA Governing Body

Past event

9th Session of the ITPGRFA Governing Body

Past event

10th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the ITPGRFA Multilateral System

Past event

10th Session of the ITPGRFA Governing Body

Upcoming event

11th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the ITPGRFA Multilateral System

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