Voluntary benefit-sharing activities of the European seed industry
What is voluntary benefit-sharing?
The basic objectives of biodiversity legislation are conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources and the sharing of benefits that arise from their use. In fact, benefit-sharing is rather a tool enabling the conservation and the sustainable use of genetic resources with crucial importance in achieving the goals of biodiversity legislation.
Benefit-sharing can be mandatory and voluntary. Mandatory benefit-sharing is usually based on contractual terms, whereas voluntary benefit-sharing activities are based on own initiatives of users of genetic resources. Voluntary benefit-sharing can take different forms: it can be monetary providing direct financial support for conservation and use or it can be non-monetary (in-kind). In-kind activities supporting the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources happen in various forms and take place at national, regional or international level.
In order to find out more about the types of voluntary benefit-sharing activities the seed sector is engaged in and to view the specific projects, please select a type of activity here below.
Providing advice on conservation and sustainable use of PGRs:
It is very common that private breeders participate in the work of national advisory committees on issues concerning plant genetic resources (PGR). In this way they can directly share their expertise and provide their input to responsible authorities in important policy decisions related to PGR.
Direct involvement in the management of collections:
It goes without saying that breeders in many countries contribute significantly to the tasks related to the day-to-day management of national collections by providing their services directly to genebanks without any compensation in counterpart. These activities may include several elements such as helping in setting up of collections; evaluation, characterization, documentation of PGR; maintenance of collections etc.
Providing plant genetic resources to the MLS:
In many cases breeders also support gene banks by directly providing them with accessions of plant genetic resources which are then included in the Multilateral System of the International Treaty and are available under the conditions of the sMTA.
Direct financial support:
In certain cases private breeders also provide direct financial support to certain activities or projects of national genebanks, conservation programs or other projects.
Dissemination of information (Awareness raising):
Private breeders may also contribute to conservation activities via dissemination of information and raising awareness on the importance of conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources within their own communities. Such activities are undertaken on a regular basis by most national breeders associations.
Involvement in international cooperation:
On some occasions private breeders are not only involved in the national conservation program, but they are also directly engaged in international cooperation programs aimed in most cases at developing countries.
Sustainable use of PGR (and facilitated access):
The continuous creation of new varieties with new combinations of genes that are more resistant to diseases and pests, that are adapted to special needs of producers and consumers, that are adapted to the climate and that produce more is an important contribution to diversity and a basis for further crop improvement. Through the internationally accepted principle of free access for further breeding (also known as the breeders’ exemption, varieties on the market are directly freely available to anybody who would like to do further breeding. This stimulates innovation and allows all breeders, be it from big or small companies, farmers, developed or developing countries, to continue development.
Dissemination of technology (technology transfer) – examples of public-private partnerships:
In the context of non-monetary benefit-sharing a lot of emphasis is put by Contracting Parties on the importance of private-public partnerships and pre-breeding as well as the availability of such pre-developed material under the Multilateral System of the International Treaty. Pre-breeding work and making such improved breeding material available for the breeding community is part of collaborative efforts related to technology transfer and capacity building. Private companies in many countries actively participate in such projects by contributing their expertise, facilities and also in many cases part of the budget of the project.
Access to material is very important for all actors to be able to conserve and sustainably use genetic resources. However, in developing countries particularly it is also key that the tools and capacity (knowledge) to use such material are shared as well. Breeders in many European countries actively participate in activities of capacity building in various developing countries.