Have your say—international sharing of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture

Consultation has concluded

Image of a field of wheat

The department is seeking your insights about proposed changes to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Your input will help inform Australia’s position when proposed changes to the treaty are discussed at an international meeting in Rwanda later this year.

We want to ensure any changes to the treaty are ultimately good for Australia’s agriculture, industry and research sectors, as well as those of our neighbouring regions such as the Pacific.

About the treaty

The treaty provides a framework for the world-wide sharing of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture to foster biodiversity and drive productivity.

The broad aim of this treaty is to protect and enhance access to plant genetic resources, and the global benefits arising from their use, in order to:

  • increase farm productivity and income for farmers

  • increase global availability of diverse and nutrient-rich food

  • minimise the threat to global food security posed by adverse environmental impacts (e.g. climate change), including by enhancing farmers’ resilience to production shocks.

The proposed changes

The treaty’s governing body is considering ways to improve access to genetic material by those countries who are signatories to the treaty—including:

  • changing the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (template for transferring plant genetic resources) to generate further funding into the Benefit-Sharing Fund

  • by expanding the treaty’s coverage to include all plant species that are present in all signatory countries.

You can find the full papers being considered by the governing body on the website of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

We want to hear from you

This online consultation is open to all Australian stakeholders, but you will find it easier to participate if you have some knowledge of the treaty—including its Standard Material Transfer Agreement–an agreement between providers and recipients of plant genetic resources outlining the obligations of each party.

Submissions are particularly being sought from those stakeholders who work with, use or perform research on plant genetic resources.

Your insights will support Australia’s attendance at the governing body meeting in Rwanda later this year, and will help to ensure that any decisions made are favourable for Australian agriculture, industry and research sector.

How you can participate

We have prepared a survey below to step you through the proposed changes and to seek your input.

Feel free to answer all of the survey questions or just those that interest you.

Alternatively, if you would like to provide a written submission, it can be uploaded below through our survey tool.

We are particularly interested in your insights about the following:

  • Do you support expanding the treaty’s coverage to include additional plant species? And what might be the potential benefits and risks for Australia in doing so?

  • What are your views about charging different types of users different amounts to gain access to plant genetic material, including providing free access to genetic material for students and researchers?

  • What are your insights about the various specific measures—as spelt out in the survey—that are being proposed to improve access to genetic material? How might some or all of these changes affect you in your own work, as well as the industries and farmers who you represent? (Feel free to answer only those sections of the survey that apply to you and your work.)

Online discussion forum

A discussion forum will be opened on 11 September for you to discuss topics that will help inform the face-to-face meeting in Canberra on 4 October. Follow the project or check back for the announcement of the topics and to have your say.

The department is seeking your insights about proposed changes to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Your input will help inform Australia’s position when proposed changes to the treaty are discussed at an international meeting in Rwanda later this year.

We want to ensure any changes to the treaty are ultimately good for Australia’s agriculture, industry and research sectors, as well as those of our neighbouring regions such as the Pacific.

About the treaty

The treaty provides a framework for the world-wide sharing of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture to foster biodiversity and drive productivity.

The broad aim of this treaty is to protect and enhance access to plant genetic resources, and the global benefits arising from their use, in order to:

  • increase farm productivity and income for farmers

  • increase global availability of diverse and nutrient-rich food

  • minimise the threat to global food security posed by adverse environmental impacts (e.g. climate change), including by enhancing farmers’ resilience to production shocks.

The proposed changes

The treaty’s governing body is considering ways to improve access to genetic material by those countries who are signatories to the treaty—including:

  • changing the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (template for transferring plant genetic resources) to generate further funding into the Benefit-Sharing Fund

  • by expanding the treaty’s coverage to include all plant species that are present in all signatory countries.

You can find the full papers being considered by the governing body on the website of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

We want to hear from you

This online consultation is open to all Australian stakeholders, but you will find it easier to participate if you have some knowledge of the treaty—including its Standard Material Transfer Agreement–an agreement between providers and recipients of plant genetic resources outlining the obligations of each party.

Submissions are particularly being sought from those stakeholders who work with, use or perform research on plant genetic resources.

Your insights will support Australia’s attendance at the governing body meeting in Rwanda later this year, and will help to ensure that any decisions made are favourable for Australian agriculture, industry and research sector.

How you can participate

We have prepared a survey below to step you through the proposed changes and to seek your input.

Feel free to answer all of the survey questions or just those that interest you.

Alternatively, if you would like to provide a written submission, it can be uploaded below through our survey tool.

We are particularly interested in your insights about the following:

  • Do you support expanding the treaty’s coverage to include additional plant species? And what might be the potential benefits and risks for Australia in doing so?

  • What are your views about charging different types of users different amounts to gain access to plant genetic material, including providing free access to genetic material for students and researchers?

  • What are your insights about the various specific measures—as spelt out in the survey—that are being proposed to improve access to genetic material? How might some or all of these changes affect you in your own work, as well as the industries and farmers who you represent? (Feel free to answer only those sections of the survey that apply to you and your work.)

Online discussion forum

A discussion forum will be opened on 11 September for you to discuss topics that will help inform the face-to-face meeting in Canberra on 4 October. Follow the project or check back for the announcement of the topics and to have your say.

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    The International Seed Federation (ISF) has submitted a statement on the enhancement of the Multilateral System.  The ISF proposal outlines an alternative to the current revision of the SMTA, containing multiple benefit-sharing options. 

    In principle, the submission proposes:

    • Multiple access mechanisms (i.e. Subscription System and occasional access).
    • Different payment rates for different levels of use of the MLS.
    • No perpetuity.
    • Termination without payment obligations.

    What are your thoughts on this proposal?

    Would this be a workable solution for you or those you represent?            


    The International Seed Federation (ISF) has submitted a statement on the enhancement of the Multilateral System.  The ISF proposal outlines an alternative to the current revision of the SMTA, containing multiple benefit-sharing options. 

    In principle, the submission proposes:

    • Multiple access mechanisms (i.e. Subscription System and occasional access).
    • Different payment rates for different levels of use of the MLS.
    • No perpetuity.
    • Termination without payment obligations.

    What are your thoughts on this proposal?

    Would this be a workable solution for you or those you represent?            


    Replies Closed
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    The international plant breeding sector has recognised the importance of conserving plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security.

    In addition to the International Seed Federation (ISF) Statement, representatives from 4 companies, who attended an informal meeting on the enhancement of the multilateral system, have developed a proposal, the Declaration of Commitment (PDF, 4.83MB). This Declaration of Commitment has been signed by 20 companies, conveying their intentions and considerations to become subscribers under a new Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) that contains multiple access and benefit-sharing options, provided certain indispensable conditions are met.

    These conditions are:

    • Legal certainty
      • No perpetual obligations
      • Allow for termination without ongoing payment obligations
      • Ensure recipients retain all rights with regard to accessed material, its PGRFA under development and its products
      • Not be unilaterally changeable
    • Subscription financial conditions
      • 0.01% of subscribers’ seed revenues generated from crops included in Annex 1 minus 30%
      • Subscribers will commit to subscribe automatically to all new crops added to Annex 1 and annual payments would be adjusted the year following any enlargement of the crop list without retroactive effect
    • Commitment by the Governing Body and Contracting Parties
      • Contracting Parties commit to recognise all PGRFA accessed through the SMTA as excluded from conditions and obligations under their retrospective national access and benefit-sharing legislation
      • The Governing Body should prepare and approve a Growth Plan to amend the scope of Annex 1
      • All Contracting Parties need to clearly state their commitment to undertake the Growth Plan
      • 5-year period to achieve the expansion of Annex 1
      • Should fail to enlarge the scope of Annex 1 and the MLS within the timeframe each subscriber would have the right to terminate their subscription immediately without any further payment obligations and with full surviving rights for all PGRFA accessed under the subscription.

    The plant breeding sector hopes that this Declaration of Commitment will provide the Governing Body with valuable perspective to give more visibility and predictability and to inform and facilitate their decision-making process.

    As a user (or someone who represents users) of the MLS and SMTA, do you believe that the overarching principles* of the ISF Statement and the Declaration of Commitment provide a reasonable baseline discussions? 

    Would the principles themselves (not necessarily the specific values) be workable to allow you to access and use PGRFA?

    * multiple access and benefit-sharing options, no perpetuity, payment rates make economic sense and commitment from Contracting Parties.


    The international plant breeding sector has recognised the importance of conserving plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security.

    In addition to the International Seed Federation (ISF) Statement, representatives from 4 companies, who attended an informal meeting on the enhancement of the multilateral system, have developed a proposal, the Declaration of Commitment (PDF, 4.83MB). This Declaration of Commitment has been signed by 20 companies, conveying their intentions and considerations to become subscribers under a new Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) that contains multiple access and benefit-sharing options, provided certain indispensable conditions are met.

    These conditions are:

    • Legal certainty
      • No perpetual obligations
      • Allow for termination without ongoing payment obligations
      • Ensure recipients retain all rights with regard to accessed material, its PGRFA under development and its products
      • Not be unilaterally changeable
    • Subscription financial conditions
      • 0.01% of subscribers’ seed revenues generated from crops included in Annex 1 minus 30%
      • Subscribers will commit to subscribe automatically to all new crops added to Annex 1 and annual payments would be adjusted the year following any enlargement of the crop list without retroactive effect
    • Commitment by the Governing Body and Contracting Parties
      • Contracting Parties commit to recognise all PGRFA accessed through the SMTA as excluded from conditions and obligations under their retrospective national access and benefit-sharing legislation
      • The Governing Body should prepare and approve a Growth Plan to amend the scope of Annex 1
      • All Contracting Parties need to clearly state their commitment to undertake the Growth Plan
      • 5-year period to achieve the expansion of Annex 1
      • Should fail to enlarge the scope of Annex 1 and the MLS within the timeframe each subscriber would have the right to terminate their subscription immediately without any further payment obligations and with full surviving rights for all PGRFA accessed under the subscription.

    The plant breeding sector hopes that this Declaration of Commitment will provide the Governing Body with valuable perspective to give more visibility and predictability and to inform and facilitate their decision-making process.

    As a user (or someone who represents users) of the MLS and SMTA, do you believe that the overarching principles* of the ISF Statement and the Declaration of Commitment provide a reasonable baseline discussions? 

    Would the principles themselves (not necessarily the specific values) be workable to allow you to access and use PGRFA?

    * multiple access and benefit-sharing options, no perpetuity, payment rates make economic sense and commitment from Contracting Parties.


    Replies Closed
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    It is proposed that the following paragraphs be included in Article 6 of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) as penalties to address prohibited uses and intellectual property or other rights that limit the facilitated access to Material provided under the SMTA.

    6.1bis

    If the Recipient uses the Material for any of these prohibited uses, a lower court in the country of origin of the Material may, on presentation of prima facie evidence of such illegal use, award damages against the Recipient to the value of USD25 million or ten times the Recipient’s annual turnover, whichever is higher. The Recipient agrees that it shall not oppose enforcement of such damage by a competent court in the jurisdiction, where its main business identity is registered.

    6.2bis

    If the Recipient claims any such IP or other rights in contravention of this clause, a lower court in the country of origin of the Material may on presentation of prima facie evidence of such claims award damages against the Recipient to the value of USD25 million or ten times the Recipient’s annual turnover, whichever is higher, and declare the IP or other right forfeited to the country of origin.


    What are you views on the above penalties?

    If you find the penalty unsuitable, what may be a more appropriate penalty?

    Note:

    1. Material means any material of plant origin, including reproductive and vegetative propagating material, containing functional units of heredity.
    2. Prohibited/illegal uses include chemical, pharmaceutical and/or other non-food/feed industrial uses.

    It is proposed that the following paragraphs be included in Article 6 of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) as penalties to address prohibited uses and intellectual property or other rights that limit the facilitated access to Material provided under the SMTA.

    6.1bis

    If the Recipient uses the Material for any of these prohibited uses, a lower court in the country of origin of the Material may, on presentation of prima facie evidence of such illegal use, award damages against the Recipient to the value of USD25 million or ten times the Recipient’s annual turnover, whichever is higher. The Recipient agrees that it shall not oppose enforcement of such damage by a competent court in the jurisdiction, where its main business identity is registered.

    6.2bis

    If the Recipient claims any such IP or other rights in contravention of this clause, a lower court in the country of origin of the Material may on presentation of prima facie evidence of such claims award damages against the Recipient to the value of USD25 million or ten times the Recipient’s annual turnover, whichever is higher, and declare the IP or other right forfeited to the country of origin.


    What are you views on the above penalties?

    If you find the penalty unsuitable, what may be a more appropriate penalty?

    Note:

    1. Material means any material of plant origin, including reproductive and vegetative propagating material, containing functional units of heredity.
    2. Prohibited/illegal uses include chemical, pharmaceutical and/or other non-food/feed industrial uses.

    Replies Closed