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FAO: Divided but Still Uniting

Maximo Torero Cullen, Assistant Director-General of the Economic and Social Development Department of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), briefs reporters on the Secretary-General's policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition. - 09 June 2020 - UN Photo/Manuel Elías

While the General Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization had a general consensus on their discussions concerning Topic II, Antimicrobial Resistance, strong differences among the council started to appear when the council took up Topic I, Sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.  The topic is multifaceted, including discussions on genetic homogeneity and biodiversity, the environmental and economic impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as the balance between protecting intellectual property and properly disseminating important educational materials and seeds to the farmers who need it the most.

But while the Council divided itself between some of the various discussion points, the Council came back to a unifying principle: the need for equal access to research and education.  This principle is not just unifying the Council, but is unifying the two topics on its agenda.  Representative Schoolcraft from Cuba stated, “the first step to managing these larger issues is education, especially for the rural farmers.”  The first draft resolution presented on Topic I, Sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, focused on equal access to research and genetic plant seeds.  The resolution calls for the enforcement of the 2001 International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, especially relating to the clauses on Access and Benefits Sharing as well as Farmer’s rights.  Further, the resolution recommends an advisory council created to disseminate the new and developing research, while also balancing the need to both protect and limit intellectual property rights.

The Council still has more draft resolutions to consider, but it has set its hopes on the wide dissemination of important agricultural research and information.

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