Bellagio Meeting – Plant Genetics Resources and the SDGs

January 9, 2017

From the 28th of November through the 1st of December 2016, 18 experts from a range of disciplines were hosted by The Rockefeller Foundation at its Bellagio Center in Italy to discuss how plant genetic resources relate to and can be instrumental in meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Generous support for this meeting was provided by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the New Phytologist Trust.

Participants agreed to maintain confidentiality with regard to individual comments and presentation materials shared in the meeting. They also agreed that the agenda, participant list, and a meeting report would be made public. At the end of the meeting, participants reported that they had found the atmosphere to be respectful and productive and that they felt encouraged by the progress they had made.

The group had three objectives, which were to:

  • Advance the ongoing global dialogue about how science, technology, data, and digital information about plant genetic resources (PGR) may impact and potentially help agriculture adapt to the changing climate and augment food and nutritional security, particularly in the developing world
  • In the context of the SDGs, explore the interaction between emerging R&D opportunities (emanating from scientific and technological advances and increased data sharing capability) and the current policy framework related to access, use, and benefit-sharing of PGR and related information.
  • Identify pathways for harmonizing the PGR policy framework with rapid developments in science and information technology to ensure safeguards and enhance opportunities to address the SDGs.

The group agreed to pursue three outputs, to be completed in the next six months:

  • As a group, the participants will develop a comprehensive meeting report for public distribution. This report was initiated during the meeting and will be completed early in 2017.
  • During the meeting, participants from the DivSeek Intl gathered input for their response to an invitation by the Secretary of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) “to report on the implications for the objectives of the Treaty of the technologies underlying the DivSeek Intl initiative” (as per paragraph 6 of Resolution 3/2015 of the Sixth Session of the Treaty Governing Body). This outcome can be used by the Secretariat to compile a synthesis on this report for consideration by the Governing Body of the Treaty at its Seventh Session in 2017. Participants agreed to provide additional input on the draft submission to the Treaty upon request from DivSeek Intl.
  • Finally, at least one scholarly article will be published as a result of this meeting describing the issues discussed and exploring potential solutions and bottlenecks to progress. The group agreed that it would be ideal to aim to develop a balanced treatment such that all participants would be happy to be identified as authors or contributors where their expertise was relevant to the subject matter. Participants also discussed how best to communicate the results with other audiences and agreed to consult with one another if any developed blog posts or articles related to the meeting.