The 5th session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) convened from 24 to 28 September 2013 in Muscat, Oman. The UPOV Convention was again, and more intensely than ever before, a topic of discussions and resolutions.
A proposal was tabled by the European Region (ERG) to hold joint consultations on areas of interface between the ITPGRFA and UPOV. On requesting the Secretariat to organize side events on Farmers’ Rights during UPOV Council meetings, Brazil suggested ensuring participation of farmers and farmers’ organizations. ERG proposed instead to request the ITPGRFA Secretariat to invite UPOV to jointly identify areas of interface. The Africa region preferred to request the ITPGRFA Secretariat to organize open roundtables on Farmers’ Rights with UPOV and WIPO, ensuring the participation of farmers and farmers’ organizations. The Near East region drew attention to possible incompatibility between the Treaty’s provisions on Farmers’ Rights and UPOV, with the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC) suggesting a request to the ITPGRFA Secretariat to prepare studies on harmonization between ITPGRFA provisions on Farmers’ Rights and UPOV 91. Australia opposed all of these proposals.
Finally, the Parties agreed that “The GB (Governing Body) requests the Secretariat to: invite UPOV and WIPO to jointly identify possible areas of interrelations among their respective international instruments.”
Other parts of the Resolution on Farmers’ Rights which may impact PVP laws include:
“The GB further invites parties to:
- consider developing national action plans for the implementation of Article 9, as appropriate and subject to national legislation, in line with the implementation of Articles 5 and 6, in particular the measures in Articles 5.1 (c and d) and 6.2 (c, d, e, f, and g);
- consider reviewing and, if necessary, adjusting national measures affecting the realization of Farmers’ Rights, to protect and promote these rights.”
For the full Resolution on Farmers’ Rights see ANNEX below.
Implementation of the Multilateral System and the Funding Strategy
The most important decision taken by the GB5 was to start a reform process of the Multilateral System for Access and Benefit-sharing (MLS). Under the current MLS, the obligation for mandatory payments under the SMTA does not extend to PVP varieties. Taking into account the innovative approaches discussed in the ad hoc advisory committee on the funding strategy and the position especially of the G77 at GB5, this could well change in the future. The following terms of reference have been agreed for the Ad Hoc Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the MLS:
“To develop a range of measures for consideration and decision by GB6 that will a) increase user-based payments and contributions to the Benefit-sharing Fund in a sustainable and predictable long-term manner, and b) enhance the functioning of the MLS by additional measures.”
Cooperation with other organizations
The European Region noted resource constraints for cooperation activities, suggesting deletion of a request to the ITPGRFA Secretariat to continue participation in relevant meetings of UPOV, the World Health Organization, WIPO and the World Trade Organization. Brazil objected to limiting the discretion of the Secretariat in this regard, noting the relevance of developments under UPOV for the Treaty. Finally, the Contracting Parties agreed on the following wording:
„The GB requests the Secretariat to:
- consider participation in UPOV, and other relevant international organizations“
Identifying benefit flows
In the run up to the GB5, the ITPGFRA Secretariat published a book on “Identifying Benefit Flows - Studies on the Potential Monetary and Nonmonetary Benefits Arising from the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture”.
Among the conclusions and recommendations for further research, it is stated:
“The feasibility of applying informatics-based approaches such as those tested in Chapter 4 would dramatically improve if:
(i) patent and PVP applications for plant variety innovations were required to provide information on the source of parental material used in an innovation, or if intellectual property regulations were amended to make it mandatory for applicants to acknowledge their possible use of material under SMTA conditions; and
(ii) a standardized system of nomenclature or coding were developed and applied for all transfer of Multilateral System materials from international and national genebanks and repositories.” This conclusion shows again that the disclosure of origin – a demand discussed at WIPO, WTO and the CBD – is also of relevance for the ITPGRFA and for UPOV and PVP legislation. (This article is partially based on the report of the Earth Negotiation Bulletin."
For the complete ENB summary of GB5 see http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/itpgrgb5/intro.html. See also the report by Third World Network, "FAO: Fixing seed treaty's access and benefit-sharing system" http://www.twn.my/title2/biotk/2013/biotk131002.htm)
RESOLUTION of the ITPGRFA Governing Body: IMPLEMENTATION OF ARTICLE 9, FARMERS’ RIGHTS
The Governing Body:
Recalling the recognition in the International Treaty of the enormous contribution that the local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world have made, and will continue to make, for the conservation, development and use of plant genetic resources as the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world;
Welcoming the submissions of views and experiences from Contracting Parties and other stakeholders, as compiled in document IT/GB‐5/13/Inf.8;
Recognizing also the submissions of views and experiences that have been compiled prior to previous sessions of the Governing Body;
Also recalling resolutions 2/2007, 6/2009 and 6/2011,
1. Requests the Secretary to review the knowledge, views, experiences and best practices thathave been submitted since the entering into force of the ITPGRFA and to date, including those submitted by farmers’organizations in order to derive examples in a systematic way as options for national implementation of Article 9 on Farmers’ Rights, as appropriate and according to national legislation, to be presented at the next session of the Governing Body;
2. Requests the Secretary to report on relevant discussions that relate to Farmers’ Rights within FAO fora including the Committee on Food Security;
3. Requests the Secretary to invite UPOV and WIPO to jointly identify possible areas of interrelations among their respective international instruments;
4. Invites each Contracting Party to engage farmers’ organizations and relevant stakeholders in matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and consider their contributions to awareness raising and capacity building towards this aim;
5. Invites each Contracting Party to consider developing national action plans for the implementation of Article 9 as appropriate and subject to national legislation, in line with the implementation of Articles 5 and 6, in particular the measures in Articles 5.1 (c and d) and 6.2 (c, d, e, f, and g);
6. Invites each Contracting Party that have not already done so, to consider reviewing and, if necessary, adjusting its national measures affecting the realization of Farmers’ Rights, as set out in Article 9 in the International Treaty, to protect and promote Farmers’ Rights;
7. Invites Contracting Parties to promote access to genetic resources under the Multilateral System by local and indigenous communities and farmers;
8. Invites Contracting Parties and relevant organizations to take initiative to convene regional workshops and other consultations including with farmers’ organizations for the exchange of knowledge, views and experiences to promote the realization of Farmers’ Rights, as set out in the Treaty, and present results at the next session of the Governing Body;
9. Requests the Secretary to facilitate support to such initiatives upon request;
10. Invites Contracting Parties and development cooperation organizations to consider providing financial and technical support for the implementation of Farmers’ Rights as set out in Article 9 of the Treaty in developing countries, and to enable farmers and representatives of farmers’ organizations to attend meetings under the International Treaty;
11. Appreciates the participation of farmers’ organizations in the work of the Governing Body, as appropriate, according to the Rules of Procedure of the Governing Body and the invites them to continue to actively participate in the sessions of the Governing Body and relevant intersessional processes;
12. Requests the Secretary to facilitate support to Contracting Parties in building capacity for the implementation of Farmers’ Rights as set out in the Treaty upon their request and depending on available resources;
13. Welcomes the offer from a farmers’ organization at the Fifth Session of the Governing Body to provide a report on the implementation of Farmers’ Rights to the next session of the Governing Body;
14. Requests the Secretary to report at the Sixth session of the Governing Body on the implementation of this resolution.