Regional meeting on Conservation, Use and Exchange of Crop Genetic Resources: Promoting Regional Cooperation for a Food-Secure, Climate- Resilient South Asia
South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE) and Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Norway organized a two-day regional meeting on “Conservation, Use and Exchange of Crop Genetic Resources: Promoting Regional Cooperation for a Food-Secure, Climate- Resilient South Asia”. The objective of the meeting was to bring together experts, policy makers, private sector representatives, academic researchers and relevant stakeholders to discuss issues related to governance of crop genetic resources in South Asia.
H.E. Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Secretary General of SAARC, Chief Guest of the programme stressed that South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has given utmost importance to the conservation, use and exchange of crop genetic resources. He argued that due to the vulnerability of South Asian countries to natural disasters and climate change, advances in regional cooperation is necessary to generate policy responses to address food insecurity in the region. He opined that the SAARC Seed Bank could be a means to promote regional exchange of seeds important for food security and climate change adaptation.
Dr. Kristen Rosendal, Research Director and Mr Steinar Andresen, Research Professor at FNI, focused on how international agreements governing genetic resources have failed to resolve North-South conflicts on access to and commercial use of seeds. She called for future actions so to promote mutual supportiveness, and secure effective and legitimate division of labour between global regimes governing genetic resources.
Discussing the South Asian contexts and complexities in relation to the governance of crop genetic resources, Mr. Kamalesh Adhikari of the Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet) of the Australian National University called for meaningful regional cooperation on climate change, agriculture and food security. He said, “SAARC countries will benefit by developing regional guidelines and models on how to regulate genetically modified seeds; promote access to and benefit sharing from the use of regional crop genetic resources; and protect farmers’ rights to seeds and traditional knowledge”.
Talking about the case of India, Dr. Anitha Ramannna-Pathak, Assistant Professor, SP Jain School of Global Management argued that though India is considered a global leader in the design of laws on intellectual property, access to genetic resources and benefit sharing, empirical evidence suggests that expected results have not been achieved. She added that the distribution of monetary benefits accrued from access to genetic resources had not been shared equitably with local communities.
Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman, SAWTEE emphasized on the need to consider different paths to enhance regional cooperation on issues related to the conservation, use and exchange of crop genetic resources for a food secure and climate resilient region. He suggested four pathways for the countries to move forward: (i) political consensus between regional countries; (ii) formation of new organizations and instruments based on past experiences; (iii) implementation of regional projects; and (iv) an ancillary path to capture the practical and technical aspects like information sharing. Talking about the High-level Committee on Technology Bank formed by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Pandey suggested that there was a need to explore whether such a bank could be used to promote the management and sustainable use of South Asia’s plant genetic resources and traditional knowledge.
During the two-day meeting, the experts discussed various issues of regional cooperation in relation to the conservation, use and exchange of crop genetic resources. Issues such as the impact of climate and natural disaster; the role of national, regional and global gene banks, and national and international research centres; and challenges and opportunities in implementing various international agreements such as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) were thoroughly discussed. Altogether, 50 experts from South Asia working on plant genetic resource-related issues, along with government officials, journalists and academicians participated in the meeting.
Setting the Agenda on Crop Genetic Resources
Climate and Natural Disasters in South Asia: Scope for Regional Cooperation on the Conservation, Use and Exchange of Crop Genetic Resources
Responding to Food Insecurity: Role of Global, Regional and National Gene Banks
Patent and Plant Variety Protection under the TRIPS Agreement: Implications and Scope for Regional Cooperation
Access and Benefit Sharing under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol: Implications and Scope for Regional Cooperation
Multilateral System and Standard Material Transfer Agreement of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Implications and Scope for Regional Cooperation
Role of International and National Agriculture Research Centers for Conservation, Use and Exchange of Native and Local SeedsRole of Bangladesh’s Plant Genetic Resource Centre for Conservation, Use and Exchange of Native and Local Seeds: Dr. Amjad Hossain