Africa pushes for gains on genetic materials

Sunday November 5 2017

According to FAO, the number of food and agriculture plants currently covered under the International Treaty is limited to 64.

According to FAO, the number of food and agriculture plants currently covered under the International Treaty is limited to 64. FOTOSEARCH 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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African nations are pushing for a review of an access and benefit sharing framework for exploration of genetic materials obtained from farmers in developing countries.

The increasing number of hungry people, coupled with climate-linked extinction of crops and livestock varieties has seen the world exploring alternative genetic materials.

African countries raised their concerns at the seventh Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture held in Kigali last week, which seeks to expand the basket of crops exchanged through the Treaty’s Multilateral System.

The Treaty’s Multilateral System seeks to remove restrictions to diverse genetic materials stored in gene banks by scientific institutions, plant breeders and other sector players.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the number of food and agriculture plants currently covered under the International Treaty is limited to 64, namely maize, rice, wheat, potato, cassava, sorghum and banana, among others, which provide 80 per cent of world population’s food intake from plants.

René Castro-Salazar, assistant Director-General at FAO said the need to expand the food basket is critical due to rapid population growth and degradation of natural resources.

Extinct species

Experts say rising global temperatures, disease outbreaks, heavy rainfall and changing ecosystems, could result in some plant and animal species going extinct.

There is therefore a need to strengthen the pact for countries to develop crop varieties.

Available figures show the multilateral system resulted in an exchange of over four million samples of genetic resources over the past 10 years.

However, delegates from developing countries say the exchange was not mutually beneficial due