The Third Extraordinary Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA-EX3) was held at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 9-13 December 1996. During the week-long meeting, delegates focused on Farmers Rights, scope and access to genetic resources in relation to the revision of the International Undertaking (IU) on Plant Genetic Resources in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Building on the results of a two-day meeting of the Commissions standing Working Group, during which several countries put forward proposals, delegates confronted both the political and intellectual complexities of revising the International Undertaking.
Although the meeting technically constituted the third formal negotiating session for the revision of the IU, CGRFA-EX3 can be characterized as a constructive pre-negotiation exercise. The meeting did not produce any new negotiated text, but it did make progress on difficult and often divisive issues. Many delegations moved beyond political posturing in order to clarify the concerns and interests that underlie their different positions. A working group on Farmers Rights allowed for the frank exchange of often conflicting views. The G-77, the EU and the US each tabled text on Farmers Rights that will serve as the foundation for the Commissions future deliberations on this issue. CGRFA-EX3 also commissioned a two-step study setting out the various options for scope and access under a revised IU, and assessing the viability of these arrangements. Finally, the Commission agreed on arrangements for the continuation of its work on the IU. In particular, in agreeing to devote the first two days of the next Commission meeting to regional consultations, countries will be able to better consolidate their positions for the next round of negotiations.