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No Bargaining on Food Security

Context

  • The Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister recently stated that no bargaining can take place at the expense of food security.
  • He was speaking at the 9th session of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture’s governing body (ITPGRFA).
    • The meeting was held in New Delhi.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

Mains Question

Despite being self-sufficient in food production, India faces food insecurity and hunger as a result of widespread economic distress, high unemployment, and high levels of inequality. Comment (250 words)


ITPGRFA (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture):

  • Plant genetic resource conservation and sustainable use for food and agriculture are critical to ensuring that the world produces enough food to feed its growing population in the future.
  • The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was established in 1983, and the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources was adopted on a voluntary basis.
  • The adoption of the Global Plan of Action at the Leipzig International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources in 1996 was another significant step.
  • All of this effort culminated in the historic adoption of the legally binding ITPGRFA in 2001, which went into effect in 2004.

Concerning the Treaty:

  • The International Seed Treaty, also known as the Plant Treaty, is a comprehensive international agreement in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • The Treaty was signed (2001) in Rome, Italy, during the 31st session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • The Treaty has had its own Governing Body since 2006, under the auspices of the FAO. The Governing Body is the Treaty’s highest organ.
    • Composed of representatives from all Contracting Parties, its primary function is to promote the Treaty’s full implementation.
  • The Plant Treaty has 148 Contracting Parties (147 Member States and 1 intergovernmental organisation – the European Union).
  • It aims to:
    • Recognizing farmers’ enormous contribution to the variety of crops that feed the world.
    • Creating a global system for farmers, plant breeders, and scientists to gain access to plant genetic materials.
    • Ensuring that recipients share the benefits derived from the use of these genetic materials with the countries from which they came.
  • As a result, the Treaty guarantees –
    • Food security by conserving, exchanging, and utilising the world’s plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in a sustainable manner.
    • The equitable and fair benefit sharing that results from its use,
    • Farmers’ rights must be recognised.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization):

  • It is an international organisation (founded in October 1945 and headquartered in Rome, Italy) that coordinates international efforts to end hunger, improve nutrition, and ensure food security (its motto – “let there be bread”).
  • It is a specialised agency of the United Nations with 195 members (including 194 countries and the European Union).
    • The FAO is governed by a biennial conference that elects a 49-member executive council from each member country and the European Union.
  • It assists governments and development organisations in better coordinating their efforts to improve and develop agriculture, forestry, fisheries, land, and water resources.

Highlights of speech:

  • All international forums must remember that food is a basic human right.
  • Developing countries will be motivated by the need to ensure that the rights of food farmers are never jeopardised.
  • Plant genetic resources are the answer to breeding challenges, and all modern and traditional knowledge must be used to preserve and use them in a sustainable manner.
  • Achieving future-ready solutions for agriculture and food security requires a balance of genetic resource governance and use, investment and innovation, and access and benefit sharing.
  • The struggle for climate resilient agriculture and nutritional security is heavily reliant on the decisions and actions of the ITPGRFA signatories.

Key points from the Director General’s (FAO) speech at the Session:

  • The session honours smallholder farmers as crop diversity stewards. They are food heroes whose contributions must be acknowledged.
  • The world’s population is approaching nine billion. Simultaneously, the effects of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss place strain on agriculture.
  • The pandemic and ongoing conflicts are having an impact on how the world produces, distributes, and consumes food.
  • In order to meet these challenges,
    • We must feed more people while using fewer resources and protecting the environment.
    • We must increase our use of diverse and resilient crops, as well as genetic resources derived from them.
    • To enable innovation, the public and private sectors, farmers, and academia must collaborate to make genetic diversity and sustainability available to breeders and researchers.
  • The ITPGRFA, along with capacity development, strong institutions, and strong partnerships, is critical to achieving these goals.
  • Making the Treaty truly universal will help preserve, share, and protect agricultural diversity.

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