In agriculture, plant and animal genetic resources are used by farmers and breeders to improve the productivity and quality of crops and farm animals. By continuously modifying the genetic material ― through selection and cross breeding, for example ― humankind has always been able to adapt agricultural production to varying environments and climates.
The productivity of national agriculture largely depends on genetic resources from other regions. Continuous access to a great variety of these resources is key for crop and breed improvement.
The ABS Initiative is working closely with the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) to bring forward the mutually supportive implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and ITPGRFA.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) or "the Treaty" underscores the importance of plant genetic resources for food security. In its multilateral Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) system, the Treaty facilitates access to 35 major food and 29 forage crops. At the same time, it provides for fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from the utilization of these resources if the resulting products are not freely available for further improvement and research.
The Treaty reiterates the principle of national sovereignty over plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The Nagoya Protocol on ABS recognizes the Treaty as a special international ABS agreement. Thus, Parties to the ITPGRFA are free to apply the Nagoya Protocol on ABS to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture that are not covered by the Treaty's multilateral system.
Faced with this special constellation, in a number of countries, uncertainties about how to address the interface between NP and ITPGRFA result in delayed national processes. The long-established partnership with Bioversity International, the SCBD, the Secretariat of the ITPGRFA at FAO and the African Union Commission is aiming to support consistent and mutually supportive implementation of both international frameworks – through on the ground support as well as internationally via workshops. Both the Secretariat of the CBD and the ITPGRFA have repeatedly recognized the relevance of the Initiative’s and Bioversity’s contributions for tapping the potential of a harmonized implementation of the two ABS instruments for agricultural development and climate change adaptation.
- Expert Workshop on the International Treaty and the Nagoya Protocol, 29 to 31 January 2013, Rome, Italy
- Fifth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Mutually supportive national implementation of the Treaty's multilateral system, and Access and Benefit Sharing mechanisms under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol, 27 September 2013, Muscat, Oman
- ITPGRFA website
- Fridtjof Nansen Institute
- Bioversity International
The differing biology of plants nd animals requires different approaches for conservation, use and breeding. Compared to plants, farm animal fecundity and reproductive capacity are extremely low, despite substantial differences between animal species. Plant collection, storage and seed distribution is also easier.
While plant breeders are interested in uniform plant varieties, individual animals or populations are the focus of farm animal breeders. Maintaining genetic variation within populations and minimizing inbreeding is much more relevant in farm animals than for plants.
The exchange of farm animal genetic resources (FAnGR) has been minimally influenced by the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). At present, FAnGR fall under the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) rules of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol. Therefore, whether FAnGR are submitted to ABS principles depends on national level implementation.
The status of the international policy discussion is well reflected in a research paper of our partner Fridtjof Nansen Institute and a National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR) Working Paper.
With a view to inform the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Animal Genetic Resources (ITWG-AnGR) under the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) the ABS Initiative funded and jointly with the League for Pastoral and Endogonous Livestock Development conducted a study about the significance of the Nagoya Protocol for the conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources.