Australia, for the first time, will chair the chief governing body of an international treaty on plant genetic resources since its adoption by the United Nations in 2001.
Australia’s Matthew Worrell, was elected chair of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, at the Fifth Session of the Governing Body of the Treaty held in Muscat, Oman in late September.
Australia’s Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Vanessa Findlay, welcomed Mr Worrell’s election and the opportunities the Treaty provides for agriculture in Australia.
“Access to plant genetic resources—such as seeds—is essential for the development of new crop varieties, which are the building blocks of a strong agricultural industry,” Dr Findlay said.
“Over 95% of Australian agriculture is based on plant genetic resources from other countries. Being members to the Treaty allows our farmers and plant breeders to continue to reap the benefits of these resources and to develop crops better adapted to climate variability, pests and disease threats.
“Having our representative in the chairing role is an opportunity for Australia to facilitate the Treaty’s work to ensure countries, including Australia, can share and access these resources more easily,” Dr Findlay said.
Worrell is the Minister-Counsellor for Agriculture in Rome and currently represents Australia and the other countries of the South West Pacific on the Treaty Bureau. He will chair the body through to late 2015.
The Treaty, negotiated under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, provides a framework for the conservation, sustainable use and exchange of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. It encourages countries to place their plant genetic resources into a global pool to enable research, training and breeding of agricultural crops and to safeguard these resources for the future.
Australia ratified the Treaty in 2005 and this year there will be over 130 member countries.
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