As a basis for discussion, delegates referred to the draft Global Plan of Action (document CGRFA-EX2/96/3), which is based on the revised structure endorsed by the sixth session of the Commission (Appendix F of the report of the sixth session, CGRFA-6/95/REP). Since plenary deliberations on the GPA proceeded slowly, the Chair established a parallel open-ended drafting group to consider written submissions and oral comments put forward during plenary. Under the chairmanship of the Rapporteur, Mr. F.J. Marroni de Abreu (Brazil), the drafting group met nine times between Wednesday afternoon and Saturday afternoon and completed only a partial reading due to the complexity of and controversy over many of the issues involved. As a result, the drafting group was unable to submit successive sections to the plenary for a second reading, as originally planned, and the heavily bracketed text will be a matter for further negotiation in Leipzig, where a working group will meet for two days before the Conference to consolidate the current text.
The plenarys discussion of the GPA focused on the documents substance and structure as well as procedure for its review. COLOMBIA reported on the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) regional meeting in Bogota, which was attended by 25 countries, and highlighted the major components of the Bogota Declaration, including: the sovereignty of States over their genetic resources; integration of political, institutional, scientific and organizational matters; dependence of the global economy on shared genetic resources; application of legal measures to systems of access and farmers rights; harmonization of existing legal instruments, including intellectual property rights; and access to financial resources. She requested that the Bogota Declaration be part of the GPA.
MADAGASCAR noted that the financial estimates in the GPA were rather low. INDONESIA hoped that recommendations from subregional meetings be included as an appendix to the report.
The NETHERLANDS stated that the GPA was more an inventory rather than a plan of action. The EC noted its difficulty in studying the GPA without an understanding of the status of PGR; suggested that the scope of the GPA should include forest genetic resources; indicated that the International Undertaking should be in harmony with other agreements, notably the CBD; and noted that implementation of the GPA without a special fund would be problematic. MALAYSIA, later supported by KENYA, underscored the GPAs lack of balance because it did not adequately discuss benefit sharing.
CANADA, later supported by NORWAY, the US, JAPAN and AUSTRALIA, underscored that the GPA represents only one part of the FAO Global System. He further noted that the issue of on-farm management is not well-documented. VENEZUELA indicated that training costs had been underestimated. MEXICO, later supported by ETHIOPIA, noted the GPAs cursory consideration of farmers rights and centers of origin, and insufficient reference to access to training and financing.
An NGO, the Rural Advancement Fund International (RAFI), felt that the GPA did not recognize genetic erosion as linked to current systems of agriculture. CHINA underscored the importance of institutional capacity-building. AUSTRALIA, supported by SWEDEN and ARGENTINA, called for harmonization of the GPA with the CBD. BRAZIL stated that the GPA should not serve as an instrument for gaining concessions under the International Undertaking. The US, supported by MALAYSIA and SWEDEN, stated that the primary goal is to maintain PGR for world food security. The US underscored the great importance it placed on unrestricted access to PGR, and stated that the concept of farmers rights should not include intellectual property rights or human rights law.
MADAGASCAR called for a timetable for implementation. MALAYSIA stated that farmers rights should move from concept to reality. SWEDEN noted that although the GPA was technically sound, it lacked crispness and indicated that the GPA should provide guidance on funding to the COP of the CBD. INDIA was concerned that Vavilovian Centres of Origin were not considered in the GPA. KENYA stated that patents must be shared between countries. INDONESIA called for greater emphasis on public awareness.
After delegates expressed their general comments on the content of the GPA, the plenary then embarked on a paragraph-by- paragraph review of the document.
INTRODUCTION: Numerous changes to the first paragraph were proposed by many countries as the original text gave a rather wordy overview to the context of the report. Three versions still remain. As a result of BRAZILs proposal in the Drafting Group (DG) to withdraw all references to agroforestry and forestry, these terms remain in brackets while later references to forests have been deleted altogether. (See the discussion on forest genetic resources on page 6.)
The Rationale for the Global Plan of Action Specifically for Food and Agriculture: In plenary the US called for recognition of the importance of world food security and CANADA requested that a later section of the GPA, relating to international cooperation and equitable benefit-sharing, be inserted in the Introduction. In the DG, BRAZIL emphasized the need to combat poverty rather than improve production.
The Aims and Strategies for the Global Plan of Action: In the Drafting Group, the US, supported by BRAZIL, requested the removal of the reference to the International Undertaking. CANADA requested that the GPA should aim to assist countries in identifying priorities for action, but this suggestion was not supported by the US. BRAZIL preferred that all aims be included in brackets. In a reference to the need for the GPA to promote the development of institutions, the US indicated they did not want to support the development of such institutions. ETHIOPIA, supported by BRAZIL, stated that development of institutions is exactly what is required.
Structure and Organization of the Global Plan of Action: This section of the GPA provides explanatory remarks on subsequent sections. In the part referring to Research and Technology, BRAZIL sought language to include the concept of technology development and transfer, but the US did not support this.
IN SITU CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Surveying and Inventorying Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: In the Drafting Group, the EU, the US and CANADA would not support language proposed by TANZANIA to sustain in situ resources. ETHIOPIA supported TANZANIAs position and called for financial and technical support to survey and inventory in situ PGR. This text is now in brackets.
Supporting On-Farm Management and Improvement of Plant Genetic Resources: In plenary, INDIA explained that on-farm conservation was not necessarily in situ conservation, since crops were not necessarily grown in the same field, and called for the GPA to pay more attention to ex situ conservation. NORWAY and COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, stated that the GPA should give more attention to in situ conservation. In support of this latter position, ETHIOPIA said that genetic erosion occurred in gene banks and hence more effort should be placed on in situ conservation. A representative of NGOs from Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua and Brazil stated that twice as much money was spent on ex situ conservation as in situ conservation, and that gene banks were no more important than indigenous agriculture. FRANCE conceded that some developed countries needed in situ programmes.
AUSTRALIA said that the GPAs reference to pricing policy in support of farm management might create a trade distortion. Later, in the Drafting Group, MALAYSIA stated that a pricing policy for on-farm conservation was an insurance policy to help in situ conservation rather than a trade distortion.
CANADA proposed text to the effect that farmers choice to grow new varieties of food plants, also known as cultivars, may lead to genetic erosion. BRAZIL suggested text to refer to farmers being driven by market forces to grow new cultivars. The US did not support either proposal and suggested instead that improved productivity would reduce pressure on fragile ecosystems.
At BRAZILs request, reference to forests in the long-term objectives and elsewhere in the text was removed. The US wanted reference to farmers rights to be qualified by the concept of so as not to prejudge other international negotiations. This proposal was supported by BRAZIL but not by ETHIOPIA. Specific reference to the role of International Agricultural Research Centres was removed at request of CANADA. ETHIOPIA, supported by MALAYSIA, wanted all text referring to the release of unfinished varieties to be deleted since it was not consistent with the CBD. AUSTRALIA supported INDIAs proposal to remove particular reference to the role of CGIAR centers in identifying agricultural plant species (landraces) for multiplication. ETHIOPIA commented in plenary that they wanted the rights of the knowledge of farmers to be protected as a caveat to promoting research into their knowledge. Later, in the Drafting Group, the US, supported by BRAZIL, suggested that rights of farmers knowledge be couched in terms of being consistent with national legislation.
In plenary, MALAYSIA expressed concern that the encouragement of on-farm research in the GPA was not consistent with the CBD since it did not recognize the need for access on mutually agreed terms.
Assisting Farmers in Disaster Situations to Restore Agricultural Systems: The US wanted specific reference to the role of NGOs in disaster relief situations. BRAZIL questioned this. ETHIOPIA was concerned about reference to private organizations that play a major role in genetic erosion and proposed language on national cooperation consistent with the CBD. The GPAs proposal to establish a multilateral fund for the multiplication of seeds in response to emergencies was supported by AUSTRALIA and BRAZIL, but not by JAPAN, the EU or SWITZERLAND. The US, supported by CANADA but not by ETHIOPIA, suggested less definitive language, and added that the FAO should not be the coordinating body for disaster situations.
Promoting In Situ Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Plants for Food and Agriculture: In the Drafting Group, BRAZIL, supported by AUSTRALIA, suggested that the title of this section be changed from Wild Plants for Food and Agriculture to Wild Plants for Food Production, hence removing further reference to forests and trees. CANADA and the US successfully argued that reference to livelihood security be replaced with world food security again to remove any implication of conserving plant species not directly related to food. BRAZIL propose that reference to indigenous peoples be omitted since this issue was being addressed within the UN Commission on Human Rights and was beyond the competence of the body. Later, in the Drafting Group, BRAZIL suggested that all references to the role of tribal and indigenous peoples in managing resources in protected areas be deleted. CANADA disagreed. AUSTRALIA suggested that if language referring to indigenous peoples was to be removed, reference to the role of women should be kept. During plenary, the Legal Counsel for FAO suggested that the term indigenous peoples in the GPA be replaced by local and indigenous communities so as to be consistent with Article 8(j) of the CBD.
In the continued deliberations of the Drafting Group, AUSTRALIA proposed text relating to off-reserve management of PGR, but the US and BRAZIL thought the content of the proposal was too broad. FRANCE agreed with the importance of off-reserve management. Crisper wording was found.
The US, the EU and CANADA each submitted text that removed the suggestion that governments should catalogue private collections of PGR so as to coordinate with in situ programmes. TURKEY submitted text suggesting that in situ conservation programmes should be linked with habitat protection, pollution prevention and land-use programmes. This proposal was rejected by the Drafting Group, primarily due to objections by CANADA. TURKEY suggested additional activities for in situ conservation, such as promoting under-utilized crops, planned and targeted collections, and promoting public awareness. This was accepted by the Drafting Group since it was consistent with the chapters of the GPA.
EX SITU CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Securing Existing Ex situ Collections: CANADA proposed reference to securing collections in the title of this section of the GPA be replaced by sustaining. In Plenary, ANGOLA stated that countries urgently needed to carry out collecting missions to strengthen national ex situ collections. In the Drafting Group, the US did not support this proposal, stating that there was excess storage capacity in existing collections. ETHIOPIA disagreed. COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, suggested removal of text referring to excessive ex situ conservation costs, especially for non-unique species. This was accepted by the Drafting Group.
ANGOLA sought additional text to recognize the fact that countries lacking sufficient ex situ capacity are those with the most urgent food security problems. In considering the long-term objectives of this part of the GPA, which refers to sustaining ex situ collections, COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, submitted text calling for the need to strengthen cooperation among national programmes and international institutions. In the Drafting Group, the US did not support this text. During plenary, KENYA called for the rehabilitation of existing ex situ collections. ECUADOR, on behalf of GRULAC and supported by TANZANIA and ANGOLA, expressed grave concern that the intermediate objectives of this section of the GPA placed too much emphasis on FAO programmes and not enough on national efforts. The AFRICAN GROUP submitted text to the Drafting Group to recognize the sovereign rights of the countries of origin as a prerequisite to the ongoing transfer of genetic material as advocated in the GPA. The need to respect national sovereignty was reiterated later in the plenary by SYRIA. The US did not support this in the Drafting Group and, supported by AUSTRALIA, modified the direct reference to obligations under the CBD in relation to access procedures. Later in the plenary, CANADA also requested that a direct reference to the CBD be removed. MALAYSIA, in response to CANADAs comment, suggested that collections should be made in accordance with national law.
The next section of the GPA referred to cooperation between the FAO, member countries and relevant institutions. It appeared to be aimed at setting the context for future negotiations on the International Undertaking. CANADA picked up this nuance and submitted text to have direct reference to the International Undertaking be included in the GPA. This position was supported by ETHIOPIA, but not by BRAZIL or AUSTRALIA. ETHIOPIA, on behalf of the African Group, again sought text referring to countries of origin rather than source country so as to be consistent with the CBD. This position was not supported by BRAZIL, the EU or the US. BRAZIL suggested that the term source country may also refer to a country holding material in a gene bank. The US supported BRAZIL by giving the example that some material has been recombined with other material so that the seed stock may now come from a number of countries. In plenary, RAFI suggested that this section of the GPA placed too much emphasis on the development of large gene banks in developed countries. In reference to a call for training support in the GPA, both CANADA and the US proposed language to remove the imperative of implied financial support. ETHIOPIA did not support this weaker language.
The following paragraph of the GPA called for sustainable funding for FAO networks. In the Drafting Group this concept was supported by FRANCE, ETHIOPIA and BRAZIL, but not by the EU or the US.
COSTING OF THE GPA: Venezuela, on behalf of the G-77, noted that the costing of the GPA was not clear enough to serve as a basis for serious work and proposed that the Secretariat should try to produce a more precise estimate for Leipzig. The US underscored its support for this idea in its opening statement, but expressed doubt as to the Secretariats ability to accomplish this additional task in time for Leipzig. AUSTRALIA underscored the anomaly of trying to make progress on costing a GPA without making progress on the GPA itself. The EU noted that the GPA did not contain any operational elements and proposed going directly to the sources of expenditure by asking international institutions in the field of PGR to confirm the cost of their activities. The Secretariat stated that although it welcomed any proposals on methodology for arriving at more precise and helpful documents, it noted that it had only received 34 responses to its survey of member countries on current expenditures. Other limiting factors, such as translation and distribution, might extend an already time-consuming process.
The Drafting Group at this stage ran out of time to discuss further aspects of the GPA raised by countries during plenary sessions. Issues discussed at plenary that extended beyond this section of the GPA mainly focused on technology transfer. COLOMBIA, on behalf of GRULAC, and supported by IRAN, stated that all countries need access to technologies to carry out their activities. In addition to the numerous outstanding issues that emerged from deliberations, the following sections of the GPA still need to be addressed in full: Utilization of PGR; Institutions and Capacity-Building; Costing of the GPA; and Major Elements and Recommendations.
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