The latest ratifications bring to 48 the number of countries worldwide that have ratified the agreement, which will therefore enter into force on 29 June 2004. The treaty aims ensure that plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are conserved and sustainably used and that benefits from their use are equitably and fairly distributed.
"This is a legally binding treaty that will be crucial for the sustainability of agriculture," said FAO director-general Dr Jacques Diouf. "The treaty is an important contribution to the achievement of the World Food Summit's major objective of halving the number of hungry people by 2015."
Jose Esquinas-Alcazar, secretary of the commission said: "Years of multilateral negotiations under the auspices of FAO's Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture have finally been successful. The treaty provides an international legal framework that will be a key element in ensuring food security, now and in the future. The challenge is now to ensure that the treaty becomes operative in all countries."
The treaty will institute, for the first time, a multilateral system of facilitated access and benefits-sharing for the crops and forages most important for food security. Scientists, international research centres and plant breeders from public and private organisations may benefit from enhanced access to genetic biodiversity.
The multilateral system is also designed to ensure the fair sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources, in particular for farmers in developing countries that have for centuries contributed to the conservation of genetic resources.
The system also provides for the obligatory sharing of monetary benefits arising from utilisation, including from commercialisation, of new varieties by the private sector.