The diversity of rice – conserving and sharing for the benefit of humanity |

The diversity of rice – conserving and sharing for the benefit of humanity


Biodiversity is one of the greatest challenges facing humans. The discovery of species or chemicals in nature with high commercial value generates political tensions and policy negotiations about who should benefit from these discoveries. As a result, international collaboration often founders on trade issues, and national policy development often focuses on controlling access to biodiversity by other countries as much as on conserving it. The Convention on Biological Diversity is the most widely ratified international agreement ever negotiated under the UN, but even now, over 16 years after it came into force, there is still no agreed scheme to facilitate the fair transfer of biodiversity between countries.
Agricultural biodiversity is a special case. How do we effectively conserve and use all this diversity? The difficulty is again the transfer of material between countries. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was negotiated between all the member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, to be an implementation of the CBD suited to the special needs of agriculture. The Governing Body of the Treaty has established a “Standard Material Transfer Agreement,” a standard legal contract that we have to use for every transfer of rice to anyone. The International Rice Research Institute sends rice free of charge to anyone anywhere who agrees to abide by the conditions of fair use specified in the SMTA. By this means, IRRI hopes to encourage everyone to adopt and enjoy a wider range of rice tastes and to promote more sustainable progress in rice agriculture.

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Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, Head, T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Centre, International Rice Research Institute, Philippines

Monday, 08 March 2010
12.15 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.

Seminar Room 2-1
Level 2, Manasseh Meyer
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772

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