AGPS/PGR : Ex Situ Network

The FAO Global System:
International Agreements on Genebanks

The International Network of Ex Situ Collections under the Auspices of FAO


The International Network of Ex Situ Collections in genebanks under the auspices of FAO has been established in line with Article 7.1(a) of the International Undertaking. The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture called for the development of the network in 1989, because of the uncertainty, at that time, of the legal situation of ex situ germplasm collected in genebanks, and the lack of appropriate agreements to ensure its safe conservation. Because the provisions regarding access to genetic resources in the Convention on Biological Diversity (Article 15) do not apply to ex situ collections assembled before it came into force, the status of these collections was identified as an outstanding matter by Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention, which recognized the need to resolve this issue within the context of the FAO Global System.

Twelve Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research signed agreements with FAO in 1994, placing most of their collections (some 500,000 accessions) in the International Network. Through these agreements, the Centres accept a number of responsibilities and obligations, in particular, to hold designated germplasm "in trust for the benefit of the international community", and "not to claim ownership, or seek intellectual property rights over the designated germplasm and related information".

Negotiations are underway with a number of countries that have expressed interest in bringing their ex situ collections into the network.

During the preparatory process of the International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, a number of recommendations on further development of the Network were made: in particular, that institutions which had, before the Convention came into force, signed agreements with the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR, now the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, IPGRI) making commitments on the availability and long-term conservation of their collections, within the former IBPGR Register of Base Collections, should now place those collections in the International Network. These collections, with those of the CGIAR, account for about a quarter of the world's collections of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (and undoubtedly a much higher proportion of the world's unique accessions).


Go to the FAO Home Page. For further information please contact N.Murthi Anishetty.