Diversity of crops is insurance policy for future, says agricultural expert

Diversity of crops is insurance policy for future, says agricultural expert


The session on the ITPGRFA will discuss the need to develop the climate-resilient varieties of foodgrains

The session on the ITPGRFA will discuss the need to develop the climate-resilient varieties of foodgrains

The ninth session of the Governing Body on the ‘International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture’ (ITPGRFA) will begin here on Monday. The session will discuss the need to develop the climate-resilient varieties of foodgrains and will draft a roadmap for the exchange of scientific information on plant genetic resources for increasing the crop production and productivity.

Talking to The Hindu, Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of ITPGRFA said the treaty was negotiated to respond to the loss of crop diversity. “We kept losing different crops and different varieties over the years. This convention is to create a framework to ensure that the plant breeders and farmers have access to crop diversity and they can breed new varieties to meet the challenges of climate change and also to increase productivity. The convention is also to ensure that the benefits arising from using the planting materials are shared in an equitable manner where the farmers and the countries who contribute in developing the new crops also benefit from the utilisation of crop diversity,” Dr. Nadozie said.

The ITPGRFA is in existence for more than 20 years. It has evolved and developed different mechanisms to ensure the implementations of the objectives such as the access of farmers to new methods of conservation and benefit sharing. “The negotiations were stalled because we could not reach an agreement and consensus. In this session, we will restart the formal negotiations to improve the system,” he said.

“Key improvement”

The key improvement ITPGRFA expects is in the area of bringing more crops under the treaty. “There are 64 crops that are listed in the annexe. We want to expand the list to include all the crops that are vital for food security. The farmers have contributed in developing those varieties of crops. But they do not get direct benefit of the commercial benefits,” he added. The treaty formally recognises the rights of the farmers. A member country requires to put in plac thee measures or laws or mechanisms that would facilitate or recognise the rights.

The conflict in Ukraine, he added, had shown that there was an interconnection among all the countries. He said the conflict had a huge impact on the global supply chains. “We are concerned about the conservation of crop diversity of foodgrains. Ukraine has great diversity of wheat. Conflict jeopardises the diversity of wheat in Ukraine. Once the diversity of the crop is lost, it is lost for ever. It exposes the common vulnerability of humanity to shocks like this. The issues concerning crop diversity is an international issue that needs international cooperation,” he said.

The world depends on a narrow range of crops for nutrition and energy intake, he said. “The narrower the range crops, the more vulnerable they are particularly when there are diseases, major environmental crises, or man-made crises including conflicts. To increase the resilience in the system, we should have broader range crops that can function as a fallback or buffer system. Diversity of crops is our insurance policy for the future,” he added.

“We need heat and drought tolerant varieties that can grow in arid or salty conditions. Millets are very nutritional qualities that the grains we use currently. But they are used less in countries and societies. There is a need to increase research and production on other crops. Countries have to put in a combination of measures to cultivate millets including the fiscal support to farmers to cultivate millets. A lot of subsidy is given to maize cultivation as it is used for industrial and commercial purposes. But for food security and for resilience of the food system, fiscal measures and research should be encouraged in the area of cultivation of millets. We require deliberate steps in this direction,” he said.


“But for food security and for resilience of the food system, fiscal measures and research should be encouraged in the area of cultivation of millets”Kent NnadozieSecretary of ITPGRFA