International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The Treaty entered into force in year 2004 is the result of an international agreement within the framework of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has 35 Articles and 2 Annexes.

Part I

Introduction (Article 1-3)

This Treaty is aimed at conservation and sustainable use of plant genetics resources for food and agriculture. It also stresses that the benefits arise from the uses of the plant genetic resources must be fairly and equitably shared. The objectives of this treaty can be achieved by closely linking the Treaty to the FAO of the United Nations and to the Convention of Biological Diversity. The terms used in this Treaty and their meanings relate to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and are not intended to include trade in commodities.

Part II

General Provisions (Article 4-8)

Each Contracting Party (otherwise known as member state) shall conform to all the laws, regulations and procedures in this Treaty. Several integrated approaches to explore, conserve, collect, characterize and evaluate the uses of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are described in this section. The Contracting Parties shall take the necessary steps to minimize or, if possible eliminate, threats to the plant genetic resources. To ensure sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, several measures can be undertaken by the Contracting Party such as broadening the genetic base of crops and  increasing the range of genetic diversity available to farmers, as well as reviewing and adjusting breeding strategies and regulations regarding  variety  release and seed distribution.

Contracting party shall integrate the measures mentioned into their respective agriculture and rural development policies and programmes, and cooperate with other Contracting Parties, directly or through FAO and other relevant international organizations.

Part III

Farmers’ Rights (Article 9)

The Contracting Parties recognise the huge contribution of the local and indigenous communities and farmers who have made and continue to conserve and develop plant genetic resources which are the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world. The Contracting Parties must ensure that Farmers’ Rights are protected and promoted, subject to their respective national government’s legislation. This can be achieved by taking measures to protect Traditional Knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources, the rights of the farmers to equitability participate in sharing of benefits and in making decisions  at the national level on matters  related to for the conservation and protection of plant genetic resources.

Part IV

The Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing (Article 10-13)

The Contracting Parties recognise the sovereign rights of States over their own plant genetic resources for food and agriculture rests with the national governments and is subject to national legislation including the authority to determine access to those resources. In view of this, the Contracting Parties agree to the establishment of a Multilateral System which covers the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture listed in Annex 1 of the Treaty, based on the criteria of food security and interdependence. The Contracting Parties further agree to take appropriate measures to invite and encourage natural and legal persons, within their jurisdiction, who are holders of the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture to access and include them in the Multilateral System. Within 2 years of the Treaty being gazetted, the Governing Body shall assess the progress of the system. The Governing Body shall, thereafter decide whether the access by these parties shall be continuously facilitated.

The Contracting Parties must take the necessary legal or other appropriate measures to provide accessibility to the parties mentioned above and cooperate with other Contracting Parties through the Multilateral System in accordance with the provision of the Treaty. Access shall be provided includes with the following conditions:-

  • Access solely for the purpose of research, breeding and training for food and agriculture.
  • Access has to be rendered expeditiously , free of charge, and if charged, must be not exceed the minimal cost.
  • Subject to applicable law, all passport data and non-confidential information shall be made available with the plant genetic resource provided.
  • Recipients cannot claim any intellectual property that limits the access.
  • Access to plant and genetic resources that are still under development shall be at the discretion of the developer.
  • Access to those protected by intellectual and other property rights must be consistent with relevant international agreements and with the national laws.
  • Access must remain available to the Multilateral system by the recipients of those  plants genetic resources according to  terms of  the Treaty.
  • Access  to    plant and genetic resources for food and agriculture found in in situ conditions must be in accordance  to the national legislation, or in the absence of such legislation  with such standards as may be set  by the Governing Body.
  • Transfer as well as subsequent transfers of those plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, including benefit-sharing to a person or entity must abide to the conditions set forth in Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) adopted by the Governing Council.
  • In emergency situations, the Contracting Parties agree to provide facilitated access for the purpose of re-establishment of agricultural systems.

The Contracting Parties agree that benefits achieved from the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture under  the Multilateral system  shall be shared fairly through  the exchange of information,  access to and transfer of technology, capacity-building and sharing of monetary and other benefits of commercialization.

Part V

Supporting Components (Articles 14-17)

The Contracting Parties recognize the importance of Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture   to promote this action they need provide coherent networking for capacity building, technology transfer and exchange of information via national actions and international cooperation.

The Contracting Parties also recognise the importance of ex situ collection for the food and agriculture, held in trust by the International Agricultural Research Centres (IARCs) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The Contracting Parties shall require IARCs to sign an agreement with the Governing Body with conditions stated in this Treaty and followed in accordance to the provisions of the MTA currently in use.  The Secretary appointed by the Director- General of the FAO with the approval of the Governing Body has the right of access to the facilities and to inspect all activities performed and shall upon request provide appropriate technical support.

Part VI

Financial Provisions (Articles 18)

To ensure   the success of this treaty, Contracting Parties need to implement a funding strategy with the objective of enhancing the availability, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of the provision of financial resources to perform the activities under the Treaty.

To mobilise funding, the Governing Body shall periodically, set up a target for funding for priority plans and programmes for different countries:

  • Developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
  • Priorities are given to the Contracting Parties classified under these categories. The Contracting Parties must take necessary measures to implement their commitments upon receiving financial aids from the Contracting Parties from the Developed countries.
  • Developed countries: The Contracting Parties that are of developed countries shall provide financial aids to those from developing countries through bilateral, regional, and multilateral channels.

Benefits arise from commercialization are also part of the funding strategy. Voluntary contributions are also encouraged by private sectors, non-governmental organizations and other sources

Part VII

Institutional Provision (Article 19-35)

The functions of the Governing Body, Secretary and other related matters are well-defined under this section. The Governing Body for this Treaty composed of all Contracting Parties.  Its main   function is to promote full implementation of this Treaty. The United Nations, its specialised agencies and the Atomic Energy Agency as well as those States that are not Contracting Parties to this Treaty, can participate at sessions of the Governing Body as observers. The Governing Body elects its own Chairperson and Vice-Chairpersons. The Secretary of the Governing Body shall be chosen by the Director-General of FAO with the approval of the Governing Body. The function of the Secretary, assisted by staff, as may be required, is to provide administrative, and other specific functions as may be assigned by Governing Body. In the event of a dispute, the Contracting Parties are advised to settle it through negotiation, if an agreement cannot be reached, the Contracting Parties involved shall seek the good office of a third party. The Contracting Parties can propose or suggest amendments to this Treaty, and the amendments can only be enforced by a consensus of the Contracting Parties. The members and non member of FAO are allowed to ratify, accept or approve the Treaty.

This Treaty shall be terminated automatically when and if the result of withdrawal, the number of the Contracting Parties drops below forty, unless the remaining Contracting Parties decide otherwise. The depository of this Treaty shall be the Director-General of FAO.

Annexes for list of crops covered under the multilateral system, arbitration and conciliation are provided under this section. [1]


  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. 2000.
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