Jochen Borchert, German Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Forestry welcomed all delegates to Leipzig, and emphasized that the main task facing the Conference was consensus on GPA, which would be a milestone in the FAO Global System. The Minister of Agriculture and Food of the Free State of Saxony emphasized the important role of PGR in maintenance of the worlds cultural heritage, and expressed the hope that delegates would agree upon recommendations for future action on PGR. The Lord Mayor of Leipzig noted the symbolic importance of the Conference being held in a city which had undergone major political changes in the last decade.
Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO stated that the Conference is a unique and historic event because it is the first time an international conference addresses the conservation and sustainable utilization of PGR. This is a new chapter of a book, the preface written by farmers over a millennium. While there have been many achievements, he noted that we should not indulge in complacency as large amounts of genetic resources are not secure. Many gene banks are technically inadequate as a result of fluctuating national and international budgets. The viability of genetic resources is not adequately assured and genetic material is poorly documented. He said that there was an inadequate and inequitable sharing of benefits and that national capacity building should be encouraged in this respect.
Given the 800 million people around the world who are inadequately nourished, Diouf emphasized the need for major scientific and technological change similar to the Green Revolution, and for political will at the highest level to ensure food security.
Following this, the CHAIR delivered his acceptance speech, in which he called upon delegates to demonstrate the common commitment and capacity for compromise which characterized the preparatory process leading to Leipzig. He then appraised delegates of the results of the Bureau elections. Based on unanimous agreement that the Bureau would be drawn from the FAO regions, the following Vice-Chairs were elected by acclamation: the U.S. for North America; Venezuela for Latin America and the Caribbean; Egypt for the Middle East and North Africa; Senegal for Africa; Malaysia for Asia; and Australia for Australasia and the Pacific.
The President of the second meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-2) to the CBD delivered a statement to the ITCPGR-4 which noted the important role of other conventions in relation to the CBDs three objectives (biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable benefit-sharing) and urged other international fora to help achieve these objectives through the CBDs overarching framework. The statement also recognized that many CBD Parties are also FAO members and that this should form a strong basis of common ground from which to build complementary programmes. Based on recommendations from the first meeting of the SBSTTA, the COP-2 statement further highlighted: the comprehensive and multidisciplinary nature of the CBD; the importance of PGRFA, which are critical components of biodiversity; the sovereign rights of States over their natural resources; and the need to make the processes of the ITCPGR-4 and the provisions of the CBD mutually supportive, complementary and consistent, in order to enhance the success of both. The statement further underscored COP-2s request that the FAO both present the outcome of ITCPGR-4 and make available the GPA and the Report on the State of the Worlds PGR (RSW) to COP-3; and its welcome of FAOs offer to link its information mechanisms to the CBDs Clearing-House Mechanism, operational since May 1996.
The Plenary then considered Agenda item 3, Adoption of the Agenda (ITCPGR/96/1 Rev.1). CANADA, supported by the US and VENEZUELA, highlighted that Agenda item 6 (the RSW) is a background document which had not been negotiated. The meeting then adopted the Agenda.
After reconvening the Plenary for its afternoon session, the CHAIR announced that the Bureau had not yet agreed on the Organization of Work.
FAO GLOBAL SYSTEM: Jose Esquinas-Alcazar, Secretary of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), introduced the document on the Fourth International Technical Conference in the context of the FAO Global System for the Conservation and Utilization of PGRFA (ITCPGR/96/INF/2).
INTERNATIONAL UNDERTAKING: Gerald Moore, FAO Legal Counsel, introduced the Progress Report on the Revision of the International Undertaking (IU) on PGR (ITCPGR/96/INF/3). He highlighted consideration of access on mutually agreed terms and Farmers Rights (FR). He noted that the CGRFA is developing a simplified text of the IU to focus its next round of negotiations.
STATE OF THE WORLD REPORT: The Report (ITCPGR/96/3) was introduced by the Secretariat, who summarized the process by which the Report was prepared, as well as its main findings, and remaining gaps in information. Following this, the FAO clarified that the title of the Report would be modified to reflect its status as a background FAO document for information purposes.
COUNTRY STATEMENTS: CANADA emphasized the importance of international cooperation in germplasm use and exchange, highlighted the bilateral and multilateral support provided by Canada in this area and emphasized the importance of achieving consensus on a GPA. He emphasized that the GPA, in its capacity as a scientific and technical document, would be a unique tool to prioritize and coordinate actions on PGR at the national and international level. The US stated its strong support for the Leipzig process, but expressed surprise that financing for a GPA was on the agenda for this Conference, despite a decision by the Sixth Session of the Commission not to discuss financing until after the Leipzig Conference. The EU noted that the GPA must be implemented on a scientifically sound basis and called for more information on activities already underway at global and national levels.
INDONESIA noted that promoting education should be given higher priority, and that forest PGR should be recognized. JAPAN said that the Leipzig Conference should be founded on a scientific basis. MALAYSIA said the global scenario had recently changed in light of both the CBD and the GATT. The GATT recognizes IPRs for plant varieties under TRIPs, yet the effects of these property rights remain unknown. GPA should examine growth in propriety rights over PGR, and emphasized the need for an institution to serve as an incentive mechanism for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of PGR. The Biosafety Protocol under the CBD is needed, he added. THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA said that free access to PGR should be explored and noted that the CBD is an effective tool for the exchange of information.
POLAND noted that the GPA and the Report reflect the understanding that PGR are both a common heritage and a common responsibility and called on countries to adopt the Leipzig Declaration. IRAN congratulated the FAO for its enduring hard work in the area of PGRFA. ETHIOPIA, later supported by the PHILIPPINES, noted that peasant farmers traditional generosity must be based on reciprocity, both through continued free- flow of PGRFA and funding. He called on the Conference to commit to the legal protection of farmers rights in the commercialization of their intellectual innovations, in the IU negotiation.
BRAZIL expressed its desire to adopt an implementable GPA which contains a strong financial commitment, a solid scientific basis and priority activities, including capacity- building in technology transfer and national programmes. INDIA noted that the output of ITCPGR-4 would be a key input to the World Food Summit, given agrobiodiversitys importance for world food security. He underscored the importance of bringing together the rights of farmers and plant breeders to meet world food demand in the face of massive population growth. CHINA called for a GPA which contains both financial and political commitments.
The PHILIPPINES noted the GPAs omission of: the impact of IPR, especially TRIPs; mainstream industrial agriculture as a main cause of genetic erosion; explicit recognition of indigenous and local rights; and linkage of ex situ and in situ approaches. Calling for consistency with the CBD, in particular sovereign rights over genetic resources, he outlined national access legislation which includes prior informed consent, benefit-sharing and technology transfer. MEXICO outlined its efforts to preserve its heritage as a country of origin through the establishment of seed banks and research activities.
COLOMBIA said that FR, fair access regimes and mechanisms for the preferential transfer of technology to countries which are centres of origin of PGR should be the cornerstone of the Global System, and that countries should not avoid agreements on financing.
KENYA stated that future reports should include implementation. He emphasized interdependence over PGRFA and stated that benefits and the burden of conservation must be shared, in line with the CBD. ECUADOR highlighted conclusions and recommendations developed at regional meetings not included in the draft GPA, as well as Andean PGR collections and the contribution of peasant communities to PGR conservation. AUSTRALIA called for finalization of the GPA at this meeting and for a set of practical and feasible measures to support conservation of PGRFA, including policies on access, benefits-sharing and ongoing efforts on the IU.
NGOs reporting on their weekend conference on agricultural biodiversity summarized a statement on FR, stating that: farming communities and Indigenous Peoples should have rights over PGR; FR and the rights of Indigenous Peoples are complementary and mutually supportive; and ownership at the local level of intellectual property is collective. FR should also include land rights and the right to participatory agricultural research support.
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