No negotiation on food security, says Tomar at international meet on food and agriculture

Ninth session of ITPGRFA discusses relying on crop diversity, genetic resources to address problems caused by climate change

September 19, 2022 10:25 pm | Updated 10:25 pm IST - New Delhi

Narendra Singh Tomar at the inauguration of the 9th session of governing body of ITPGRFA in New Delhi, on September 19, 2022.

Narendra Singh Tomar at the inauguration of the 9th session of governing body of ITPGRFA in New Delhi, on September 19, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

No negotiation is possible at the cost of food security, announced Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar at the ninth session of the governing body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) on Monday.

“All international forums must not forget that food is an essential fundamental right. Developing countries will be motivated by the need to ensure that the rights of farmers producing food are never compromised,” he said, adding that the struggle for climate resilient agriculture and nutritional security depends heavily on the decisions and actions of the signatories.

Mr. Tomar also talked about plant genetic resources being the source of solution to breeding challenges. “We must use all modern technologies as well as traditional knowledge to preserve and use them in a sustainable manner,” he said.

Following Mr. Tomar’s inaugural address, Union Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja said that deliberations in the session must lead to a balance between genetic resources governance and use, investment and innovation, and access and Benefit Sharing to achieve future-ready solutions for agriculture and food security.

QU Dongou, Director General, FAO, who joined the session virtually, said the meet is celebrating smallholder farmers as guardians of crop diversity. “They are food heroes and their contributions must be recognised. The world is heading for a population of nine billion. At the same time, the impacts of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss are putting pressure on agriculture. We must feed more people with less, with fewer inputs and safeguarding our natural resources,” Dr. Dongou said.

The pandemic and ongoing conflicts are affecting the way the world produces, supplies and consumes food, he pointed out. “They have shown us how fragile our agri-food systems are and have put our global supply chains under pressure. To deal with these challenges, we must increase the use of diverse and resilient crops and their genetic resources. We must conserve the source of our food and agriculture, our seeds and other plant genetic material. The future of food depends on it,” he added.

Dr. Dongou said the public and private sectors, farmers and academia need to put in the effort to use genetic diversity and sustainability, and ensure they are made available for breeders and researchers to enable innovation. “It will allow us to adapt our crops to the growing impacts of the climate crisis, and be more resilient to shocks in supply chains. The treaty is central to achieving these objectives. But to do so, we need capacity development, solid institutions and strong partnerships,” he said.

He offered support to the efforts to get all FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) members to sign up to the treaty. “Making the Treaty truly universal will help to ensure that agricultural diversity is saved, shared and cared for. We must conserve this treasure for our descendants, for the food security of current and future generations, and for the improved resilience and preservation of our planet,” he added.

The ITPGRFA was signed during the 31st session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome in November, 2001. The treaty seeks to achieve food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), equitable sharing of profits from its use, as well as playing an important role in the recognition of rights of farmers.

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