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Updated: August 11, 2010 01:07 IST

‘Knowledge-sharing, a key to global food security’

Shyam Ranganathan
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Xuan Li, Treaty Support Officer, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Photo: V. Ganesan.
Xuan Li, Treaty Support Officer, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Photo: V. Ganesan.

Interdependence and knowledge-sharing are keys to global food security, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is the only legally binding treaty that promotes this, according to Xuan Li, Treaty Support Officer.

Speaking to The Hindu on Monday, Ms. Xuan Li said 125 countries were signatories to the treaty that allowed access to the developments to individuals and corporations.

The treaty provided access and benefit-sharing to 64 important crops that were estimated to account for around 80 per cent of all human consumption and helped in making genetic diversity and other related information available to all.

“Contribute back”

“But anybody who accesses the resources has an obligation to contribute back to the shared pool and this way the knowledge keeps expanding,” she said.

At present, there were nearly 1.4 million plant genetic resources and the system was accessed 600 to 700 times a day globally.

The treaty included farmers' rights and allowed individuals to contribute to the gene banks.

“No single country and entity will be able to develop expertise quickly. Even bilateral agreements take time, but this multilateral system through Standard Material Transfer Agreement speeds up the pace of development,” she said.

While climate change discussions did not focus much on agriculture and the emphasis was on mitigation, the treaty had decided to lead a global initiative to help farmers to adapt key food crops to climate change.

Hailing the contributions of eminent scientist M.S.Swaminathan to agriculture, she said: “Professor Swaminathan has been a leading member of the international High-level Task Force of the Benefit Sharing Fund [BSF] of the treaty, which is charged with fund raising to support farmers in developing countries through the BSF. In the last 12 months, almost $15 million has been successfully raised for the BSF. He has also kindly agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the International Treaty during his many speaking engagements the world over.”

Pat for India

Commending India's role, Ms. Xuan Li said India was the only country in Asia whose projects were approved for being implemented under the first call for proposals from the BSF.

The second call for proposals included projects on food security and climate change. The last date for application for grants is September 8.

Details are available at www.planttreaty.org and any individual or private sector entity can submit proposals to Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the Treaty, who has been responsible for the implementation and growth of the Treaty since its beginning in 2007.

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