Small Coins at Carghage: FAO Pland Treaty off to an Embarassing Start

Civil Society Press Release – International Treaty on Genetic Plant Resources for Food and Agriculture
(Tunis, 2 June 2009) The FAO Plant Treaty’s mechanism for sharing the benefits derived from the access to plant genetic resources is a shameful failure.

The treaty foresees that when a commercial product is derived from the use of the genetic resources that are part of the treaty, 1.1 percent of sales ought to be paid to the Treaty’s Benefit Sharing Fund.

However, in the opening ceremony of the third Governing Body session yesterday in Carthage, Tunisia, a pitiful 250.000 dollars was given to projects supposed to benefit farmers, recognized by the global community as the main producers and conservers of the diversity of all the worlds’ food. Moreover, the bulk of these funds went to governmental and non-governmental institutes.

As Ditdit Pelegrina, from SEARICE in the Philippines noted, “farmers were largely absent from the 11 approved projects. Clearly, the money is not going towards on-farm conservation, as the treaty often claims, and where the diversity and farmers really are but rather to national research institutions.”

“It is an insult to the treaty to claim that this money constitutes access and benefit sharing that is supposed to go the backbone of our food system,” protested Guy Kastler, a peasant representative from La Via Campesina. The money awarded yesterday was in fact not through the Treaty mechanism but through voluntary donations made by individual countries. This is not sustainable, especially when the treaty cannot guarantee the bare minimum to keep the treaty alive.

One more time, it is the rich countries, Canada and Europe that are blocking the contributions to the treaty that make up the Treaty’s budget. The last Plant Treaty meeting in 2007 was already wasted almost entirely arguing over the 4,9 million needed to keep on the lights in the Treaty Secretariat. It is time to move beyond self-interested bickering to commit serious resources to a Treaty that, in this age of climate, food and economic crises, needs urgent implementation, beginning with funds for the farmers, indigenous peoples and pastoralists at the heart of plant genetic resource conservation.

Media Contact: Guy Kastler, La Via Campesina and Pat Mooney, ETC Group +1(613) 291-9793, or in Tunisia +216 23 350 189 or +216 98 350 189