The ninth meeting was held last week of the snappily titled Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The indispensable Earth Negotiations Bulletin provides a summary of the results.
You’ll remember the Treaty has entrusted this working group with the task of looking for ways of increasing and speeding up the flow of money into the Benefit Sharing Fund. The meeting came up with a package of measures, comprising revisions of both the Standard Material Transfer Agreement used to distribute germplasm from the Multi-lateral System (MLS) and the list of plant genera included in the MLS (Annex I).
As far as the latter is concerned, there was agreement on a significant expansion:
Participants achieved an important breakthrough on Thursday night, with a tentative agreement on amending the list of crops in the MLS, currently in Annex I of the Treaty. While as usual in international negotiations, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Working Group participants expressed satisfaction with the well-balanced compromise: the MLS would cover all PGRFA under the management and control of parties and in the public domain that are found in ex situ conditions, while parties have the right to make reasoned declarations exempting a limited number of native species.
And as for the other side of the coin, it seems that there will be a move towards a subscription system, where a single up-front payment buys you access to the MLS for a specified period, while allowing the current pay-for-use system as an exception:
With agreement that the subscription system would be the main approach and single access would be the exception, the proposal to set a lower rate for the primary model and a much higher rate for exceptional single access to attract more users and hopefully more funds garnered significant interest.
Predictably, not everyone is entirely happy about how things have been going. But negotiations continue, with the final package to be discussed at the next meeting of the Governing Body of the Treaty in November.