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FAO eyes royalties system for genetic resources.

TOKYO, Aug. 24 Kyodo

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is seeking the creation of a legally binding system to redistribute royalties on patented seeds and genes to the countries where the plants come from, Japanese government sources said Thursday.

As part of a draft revision to the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, adopted in 1983, the FAO is calling for the creation of a multilateral organization to manage plant genetic resources and redistribute some of the royalties on patented products to the countries of origin, mainly developing countries, the sources said.

Plant genetic resources, defined as the ''propagating material'' of plants, include genetically engineered seeds and new varieties of plants bred for purposes such as producing disease-resistant crops and news medicines.

While the patents are mostly held by industrialized countries such as the United States, many of the plants themselves come from developing nations.

The FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture will discuss the draft plan at its six-day meeting in Tehran starting Saturday, but negotiations on the proposed royalties system are expected to face tough opposition from some industrialized countries, including the U.S.

The draft also suggests facilitating research by allowing researchers to freely examine plant genetic resources found in all member countries.

The undertaking is aimed at ensuring that plant genetic resources of economic and social interest, particularly for agriculture, will be explored, preserved, evaluated and made available for plant breeding and scientific purposes. It includes rice, wheat, melon and tomato, among others.

The revisions, which the FAO began working on in 1994, would stipulate countries that do not sign the updated accord will be barred from obtaining genetic resources it has collected, the sources said.

The current system is nonbinding, and some countries have criticized it as ignoring the rights of the countries from which the plants originate.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Aug 28, 2000
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