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Aust. ratifies international plant genetics treaty

Australia to ratify international plant genetics treaty

Australia will ratify a treaty covering the conservation, sustainable use and international exchange of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Peter McGauran made the announcement last night while addressing the 33rd Session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Conference in Rome.

"The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has important implications for the future productivity and international competitiveness of Australia's agriculture sector," he said.

"Our plant breeders rely heavily on genetic material from overseas to develop new crops - including new grains, oilseed, pastoral and horticulture varieties.

"The treaty sets out the legal framework covering access to this material and the sharing of the potential benefits. That provides our breeders with the certainty and confidence they need to access the genetic material needed to keep Australian agriculture at the international forefront."

Mr McGauran said Australia would continue to work closely with FAO on the detail of the treaty's working provisions.

"Final decisions in this regard are expected to be made at the first meeting of the treaty's Governing Body in Spain next June," he said.

"Australia will also remain a major donor to the Global Crop Diversity Trust - a key source of funding for the treaty. The Trust promotes long-term food security by coordinating international, regional and national crop collections around the world."

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Mr McGauran said Australia holds significant collections of genetic plant material in seed banks around the country.

"To ensure this material is properly managed and conserved, we will set up the National Genetic Resource Centre," he said.

"It will have the job of coordinating Australian-based collections, as well as improving their content and long-term efficiency. The Centre will also be responsible for ensuring that any obligations arising from the treaty are met by the Australian collections."

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