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Source: Small Island Developing States

The resumed ninth session of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing (MLS) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA or Treaty) convened with the expectation to conclude negotiations on a package of measures to enhance the functioning of the MLS.

In June 2019, the Working Group made significant advances, including tentative agreement to amend Annex I of the Treaty (list of crops in the MLS), and progress on revising the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). Rates for benefit-sharing payments, and information related to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), also referred to as genetic sequence data or digital sequence information (DSI), remained as the main outstanding issues. The meeting was thus suspended to allow for additional time to finalize negotiations.

However, at the three-day resumed session from 24-26 October 2019, at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in Rome, Italy, the Working Group was unable to bridge positions between the developed and the developing world. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis of the meeting indicates that “delegates’ inability to reach consensus on the basis of a Co-Chairs’ compromise proposal dealing with the most controversial elements as a package resulted in re-opening the draft revised Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) and the draft resolution—the main texts under consideration—and inserting a significant number of proposed revisions.” While there were hopes going into the meeting that it would conclude with an agreement, the Working Group now “needs to manage ‘a crisis in their hands,’” according to Co-Chair Hans Hoogeveen (Netherlands). 

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of the meeting indicates that deep principled divergences remained, in particular regarding benefit-sharing payments from use of genetic sequence data. Co-Chairs Hoogeveen and Javad Mozafari (Iran) issued a compromise proposal on a package of elements, addressing benefit-sharing payment rates, benefit-sharing from genetic sequence data, and the review of the enhanced MLS, but consensus was not reached on the draft.

The Co-Chairs will hold informal consultations immediately prior to the Governing Body (GB) session to be held from 11-16 November 2019, with one or two representatives from each region, in a final attempt to reach consensus. [ENB coverage]

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