The Seventh Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was officially opened on Thursday, 15 May, by Mr. Abdoulaye Sawadogo, Assistant Director-General of the FAOs Agriculture Department. Welcoming the Commissions 151 member States as well as various UN agencies, IGOs and NGOs, Sawadogo outlined events over the past two years, which he described as the most active and important since the Commissions creation in 1983. In particular, he noted the unanimous adoption of a resolution by the 1995 FAO Conference to broaden the mandate of the Commission to include all sectors of agro-biodiversity as well as the two extraordinary sessions in 1996, the first of which served as a preparatory meeting for the Fourth International Technical Conference, and the second dedicated to negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking.
ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS: The Commission elected a new Bureau for the next biennium: Mr. Fernando Gerbasi (Venezuela) as Chair; Mr. Tewolde G. Egziabher (Ethiopia), Mr. Eng Siang Lim (Malaysia), Mr. Mohammed Taeb (Iran), Mr. Gert Kleijer (Switzerland), Mr. Andrew Pearson (Australia), and Mr. Thomas Forbord (US), as Vice-Chairs; and Mr. Michel Chauvet (France) as Rapporteur.
In addition, delegates adopted the provisional agenda and timetable (documents CGRFA- 7/97/1/Rev.1 and /Add.2), containing the following items: continuation of negotiations for the revision of the IU; future work of the Commission; revision of terms of reference and procedures of the Working Group(s); report of ITCPGR-4; follow-up to ITCPGR-4 and progress report on the FAO Global System; consideration of FAOs programme on genetic resources for food and agriculture; reports from international organizations on their programmes, policies and activities on genetic resources for food and agriculture; date and place of the next session; and adoption of the final report.
REGIONAL CONSULTATIONS: Delegates agreed that for the rest of the first day, regional groups would meet to prepare their respective positions for continued negotiations to revise the IU, followed by inter-regional consultations on 16 May. The Chair asked each region to prepare regional positions on the three issues of scope, access and benefit-sharing. The Bureau then met over the weekend to review and, where possible, consolidate these regional texts, which were translated and available Monday morning. This consolidated text, entitled Text of Articles 3, 11 and 12 Compiled and Consolidated by the Bureau on Saturday, 17 May 1997 (Bureaus Text), replaced the relevant sections of the Fourth Negotiating Draft of the IU. The Commission also agreed that two Ad Hoc Working Groups would meet on 19 and 20 May: one group would consider the first 11 articles of the IU, including Article 3 on scope and Article 11 on access; the other group would consider the remaining articles, including Article 12 on Farmers Rights.
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