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a binding framework that would be in harmony with the access and benefit-sharing principles of the CBD. The negotiations lasted for seven and a half years, and finally, in 2001, the treaty was adopted by the FAO Conference, coming into force in 2004. The first governing body session under the treaty was held two years later, and within three years following that session, 40 instruments of ratification were deposited.

Then, in 2006, two years after the ITPGFRA came into effect, the first session of the governing body adopted the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). It was the fastest rate of ratification of an FAO-administered treaty in the history of FAO. The SMTA is the standard contract for transferring genetic material within the multilateral system. The third session of the governing body was held just a few months ago (in June 2009) in Tunisia, and the next session will be held in March 2011 in Bali.

Figure 19–1 offers a very simplified diagram illustrating how the multilateral system of the treaty works.


FIGURE 19–1 The main operational systems and mechanisms of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
SOURCE: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization,

In essence, the treaty creates a multilaterally governed gene pool. Genetic material is put into that gene pool by various actors. These include the nations that have ratified the treaty and also international organizations, such as the International Atomic

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