International agreement on genetic resources in Svalbard
During the period from 11 to 13 September 2012, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an international meeting in Longyearbyen, Svalbard to discuss possible future paths for the management of genetic resources for agriculture and food. Norway hosted the meeting, which attracted around 100 participants and translators from all over the world.
The meeting on Svalbard was established by the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to assess the need for special rules to ensure access and benefit sharing (ABS) related to these resources. Senior Adviser Grethe Evjen of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food was elected to chair the meeting.
The Svalbard meeting touched upon many issues during the three days the meeting took place. It was important for many to emphasize the common traits for genetic resources in plants, farm animals, forests, fish, invertebrates and microorganisms that are included in the agricultural ecosystem.
It was stressed that the FAO Commission's work on genetic resources in agriculture and food must support the revised Plant Treaty, Nagoya Protocol and other international agreements, and cooperate with these existing agreements. It was also generally agreed that an international agreement on ABS under the FAO Commission was premature.
Norway participated in the European group. The group received acceptance for its proposal to create a matrix of relevant existing practices, initiatives and instruments for genetic resources for food and agriculture and possibly ABS within these.
It was also agreed that the FAO Commission could work with a variety of activities including information campaigns, capacity building and obtaining supporting material for the development of voluntary guidelines, samples and standards.
Increased international focus on genetic diversity
Climate change, population growth and prosperity is putting pressure on global natural resources and challenging food security. It is increasingly recognized in international fora that the genetic diversity for agricultural and food is critical for global food security. Access and benefit sharing (ABS) related to genetic resources is managed in general by the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), but takes into account the Plant Treaty and the possible future development of other international agreements on this.
The report from the meeting will be available on the website of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. http://www.fao.org/nr/cgrfa/en/.