UN agency urges backing for treaty on plant genetic resources as way to eradicate hunger

14 June 2006

The head of the United Nations food agency today urged all countries to fully back the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which aims to safeguard the genetic diversity of crops, describing it as “a fundamental tool in humanity's efforts to do away with hunger and malnutrition.”

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf made his call at a meeting in Madrid of agriculture ministers at which they approved a Ministerial Declaration in which the Treaty’s contracting parties pledged its full implementation through specific national rules and programmes, the Organization said in a news release.

"We must reaffirm our political will to work for the benefit of present and future generations as well as our commitment to do everything possible to ensure that the Treaty is fully and comprehensively implemented," said Mr. Diouf, pointing to the challenge of feeding a growing world population that will reach nine billion people by 2050.

The ministers also expressed their conviction that the Treaty is vital to achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals -- particularly eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and guaranteeing environmental sustainability. They also pledged to enhance national capacities for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.

The Madrid meeting of the Ministerial Segment of the Treaty's governing bodies, chaired by Elena Espinosa, Spain's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, was attended by over 70 countries, a fact which sent a powerful political message in support of the Treaty, according to FAO. This was the first meeting of the Treaty's governing body.

In his remarks, Mr. Diouf also gave several examples of progress made under the Treaty, including enabling developing countries to conserve and make better use of their plant genetic resources as well as those they obtain internationally, and also reversing a recent trend towards reduced international sharing of plant genetic resources.

FAO calculates that the average level of country interdependency for plant genetic resources is 70 per cent, meaning that all countries depend significantly on the genetic diversity of crops in other countries in order to be able to guarantee the food security of their own populations.

In a separate development related to food security, the FAO said its recent Regional Conference of Europe had underlined the key role of rural development driven by agriculture in combating poverty and hunger, especially in Europe’s transition countries.

Attended by agriculture ministers and delegates of 51 countries and numerous observers, the Conference in Riga, Latvia from 8-9 June, also urged greater FAO cooperation with and assistance to the countries of the region.


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