INCREASE – Intelligent Collections of Food Legumes Genetic Resources for European Agrofood Systems

Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA)

The "Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture" (ITPGRFA; "Treaty") has been in force since 2004. A Multilateral System of Access and Benefit Sharing (MLS) facilitates access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) and associated information for 64 agricultural crop and forage species. The MLS was created to facilitate exchange of material and information while ensuring appropriate sharing of benefits derived from the use of PGRFA.

To access material made available under the MLS, a "Standard Material Transfer Agreement" (SMTA) was developed to ensure that the principles of the Treaty are upheld. The SMTA provides a standardised, mutually agreed way to facilitate access to and fair use of PGRFA for conservation, development and training to promote sustainable agricultural development. Without the SMTA, anyone could claim ownership of the PGRFA material and information received, apply for patents, or assert other forms of intellectual property rights. Additionally, at each transfer, potentially lengthy negotiations would be required to define the terms of the transfer.

The text of the SMTA is fixed by the Treaty and cannot be changed: the SMTA has to be accepted as it is. It is a private contract between the provider and the recipient and is legally binding regardless of their status or the countries in which they reside. Among other obligations, the recipient can transfer the material received to third parties only under a new SMTA. Recipients have no financial obligations if they directly consume the harvested seed (also, the harvested beans can be sold as vegetables for consumption). The PGRFA material can be used or redistributed free of charge for research and breeding purposes. Farmers are actually invited to request and farm with PGRFA. They can grow and sell the products commercially just as they would with any other variety. They just can't patent them. However, use for chemical, pharmaceutical or other industrial purposes other than food or feed production is expressly prohibited.

Easy-SMTA is the IT System developed to support the MLS of the Treaty. This System has been developed by the Secretariat of the Treaty. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the institution hosting this Secretariat and, as designated Third Party Beneficiary, monitors the execution of SMTAs. However, up to now this has never been implemented into an App. Therefore, the FAO is on board of the INCREASE project and has supported the development of this application. The INCREASE easy-SMTA App paves the way for future Citizen Science Projects with PGRFA that require such a process.

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