The objectives of this Treaty are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) and the equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) entered into force on 29 June 2004. Today 137 states are Contracting Parties. Switzerland ratified the Treaty on 22 November 2004. It is in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its aim is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) and the equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use.
The Treaty is a key instrument for ensuring agricultural plant diversity on which farmers and breeders depend in order to be able to meet global challenges. These challenges include the growing world population and/or climate change which make it necessary to breed heat or humidity tolerant varieties. Access to the PGRFA and fair distribution of the benefits resulting from their use are regulated under the Multilateral System (MLS) established by the Treaty. Transactions between suppliers and users of material are carried out on the basis of Standard Material Transfer Agreements (SMTA). Every year several thousand SMTA are concluded, the majority by the Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). In Switzerland the national gene bank has drawn up 132 SMTA for more than 1753 accessions since 2007.
The sixth Session of the Governing Body was held from 5 to 9 October 2015 in Rome. This Conference of Contracting Parties took place against the background of the further development of the MLS and establishment of the programme of work for forthcoming negotiations. In the next biennium, the current Ad Hoc Working Group is to continue and concrete mechanisms for improving the Multilateral System are to be drawn up for the attention of the seventh Session of the Governing Body in 2017. These measures are aimed at creating a comprehensive, functional and user-friendly system for providers and recipients of all PGRFA in future. In addition, the Funding Strategy of the ITPGRFA will also be reviewed. An important element is the Benefit-sharing Fund, which for the time being is based on voluntary contributions from Contracting Parties and other organisations.
At the sixth Session of the Governing Body, various Working Groups and Groups of Experts were set up which will deal with a variety of themes during the next biennium. Switzerland is a member of the Working Group to enhance the functioning of the Multilateral System, the Advisory Committee on the Funding Strategy and the Technical Committee on Sustainable Use.