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A backseat view of the 50 year voyage to develop international systems for PGRFA conservation and use


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Michael Halewood, head of Bioversity International policy unit, presented at the international conference Enhanced genepool utilization - Capturing wild relative and landrace diversity for crop improvement, in Cambridge, UK, 16-20 June 2014.

For the last 50 years, members of the international community have devised interventions to support the conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. For much of that time there has been general agreement concerning many of the core components that an international PGRFA conservation system should include: virtually pooled PGRFA in ex situ collections around the world with common rules for facilitated public access; an international fund supported by developed country governments and or commercial users, based on recognition of farmers’ contributions over millennia, to support capacity building in developing countries; and a complementary information system(s). The place of in situ conservation within the mix of components has been uncertain, and largely overlooked, until recently.
What have been controversial and dynamically changing are the ‘deep rights of control’ over PGRFA that countries and some stakeholders have insisted upon as pre-conditions for fully supporting the establishment of those core components. The presentation reviews the controversies, compromises, and sea-changes over the last 50 years concerning the ‘deep’ legal status of PGRFA.

Read more about Bioversity International work on policy for crop diversity conservation and management

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A backseat view of the 50 year voyage to develop international systems for PGRFA conservation and use

  1. 1. Are we almost there yet? A back seat view of the 50 year trip to develop international systems for PGRFA conservation and use Michael Halewood, Bioversity International PGR Secure, Cambridge, June 16-20, 2014
  2. 2. 1965 future20011983
  3. 3. Core components Internationally linked network of ex situ collections • Facilitated access for agricultural research & breeding Information system(s) International fund • developed countries & commercial users • support developing countries capacity to participate • reward/incentivize conservation
  4. 4. Phase 1: consolidation of vision 1965: FAO Panel of Experts in Plant Exploration 1967: International tech conference 1972: IBPGR  300 collecting missions in 90 countries  International network of base collections, to make available for agriculture research and development 1979-1983: FAO conference considers options 1983: International Undertaking; CPGR
  5. 5. International Undertaking, 1983 • “internationally coordinated network of national, regional and international centers . . . under the auspices or the jurisdiction of FAO, that have assumed the responsibility to hold, for the benefit of the international community and on the principle of unrestricted exchange, base or active collections of PGR.” • “global information system . . . related to plant genetic resources maintained in the aforementioned collections . . . linked to systems established at the national, subregional and regional levels.” • International financial mechanism to secure funds to support conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA in developing countries
  6. 6. Why is it taking so long?
  7. 7. Despite shared basic vision, high degrees of uncertainty, disagreement over … • How much PGRFA will be included, from which sources? – From IARCS? (relatively easy) – From countries? from whom within countries? (much more difficult) • What benefits should be shared in return? • What is legal status of PGRFA? Who has deepest rights of control?
  8. 8. Legal status/deep rights of control Fundamental. Once you know this, it is clear who gets to decide what goes in. And under what conditions. Until all parties were comfortable with this, progress institutionalizing 3 core components was not possible, at least not as far as countries were concerned. 1983-2001: key period. Sea-change
  9. 9. Phase 2: common heritage to primacy of national sovereignty and IPS • 1985: CPGR 1 • 1989:CPGR 2 • 1989: resolutions 4/89, 5/89 • 1991: resolution 3/91; UPOV 1991 • 1992: CBD adopted • 1994: Treaty negotiations start; FAO-CGIAR In Trust Agreements;. • 1995: WTO/TRIPS • 1996: GPA1 • 1997: SoW 1 • 2001: Treaty text adopted (into force 2004)
  10. 10. International Treaty & MLS • First international legally binding instrument addressing pooling, conserving, sharing benefits for PGRFA • Based on recog and exercise of national sovereign rights wrt PGRFA • Recognizes and works around IPRs • Automatically in the network of collections: management and control of contracting party and in the public domain – National public mats w/o IPRs – Everything else subject to voluntary inclusion. Commitments to encourage natural and legal persons to do so. – Some in situ, but not so much given formula • Benefit sharing formulae (2 options) • Creation of a benefit sharing fund • Commitment to creation of a global information system
  11. 11. 20:20 hindsight: sea-change precondition for progress • Early efforts to consolidate international rules regarding pooling, conserving , sharing PGRFA and associated benefits floundered when they were based on conceptions of PGRFA as part of the public domain and/or the common heritage of human kind. • Progress made possible with primacy of intellectual property and national sovereignty were clarified, and countries’ and IPR holders deeper rights were clarified.
  12. 12. Treaty is huge progress, but as we enter phase 3 …
  13. 13. And …
  14. 14. Leading to …
  15. 15. More adjustments necessary… • Not on the scale of 1983-1993 (not another sea change) Need to: • lower transaction costs, increase user & others monetary contributions, create willingness to confirm what materials are automatically, create incentives for voluntary contributions, possibly expand Annex 1 for more crops, forages, • create/endorse operationalize information system Many of these challenges well documented by the Funding Strategy Working Group & Governing Body, which launched formal intergovernmental process
  16. 16. Working Group to Enhance Functioning of the Multilateral System (EFMLS) • 3 meetings planned 2014-15 • 5 reps/region • Co-chairs: Bert Visser, Modesto Fernandez • 1st was in June • First two focus on user measures • Third to focus on providers
  17. 17. EFMLS 2 • Some tensions about disaggregating user messages and increased access – Library analogy • Some initial conversion around revision of benefit sharing option 6.11 of SMTA – Up front membership or subscription fees, based on commercial operations of user/subcriber – No need to trace incorporation or sales of particular varieties – But, lots of open questions. Opening meeting only. Long way to go. Great start, but need to be cautious • Extremely important process. Dynamic, innovative, exceeding UN norm (though more intense stakeholder engagement would be welcome)
  18. 18. So, are we almost there?
  19. 19. 2015: GB adopts revised MLS conditions? 2017: Global information system? BSF contributions from users? And or governments? Automatic and voluntary inclusions verified & increased? Into the future 2015 onwards: Mutually supportive implementation of the Treaty/CBD/Nagoya Protocol? ??: In situ conservation and sustainable use?
  20. 20. Are going to make it? When?
  21. 21. Thank you very much