The genetic diversity in plants is the foundation of all food production. Both professional breeders and traditional farmers depend on this variety. We find here the traits required to meet people’s nutritional needs, produce adequate feed for domestic animals, protect crops from pests and disease, and, not least, adapt food production to shifting climatic conditions. Crop diversity is therefore the single most important environmental factor in agriculture today, precisely because it decides how far the production of food can be adapted to a changing environment. But crop diversity is declining at a precipitous rate, and new laws and regulations are making it increasingly difficult to gain access to these resources. This is putting food security at risk. In a bid to reverse this situation the United Nations (UN) Food and

Agriculture Organization (FAO) adopted in 2001 the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which entered into force in 2004. This is the first legally binding agreement dedicated exclusively to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, that is to say,

genetic material of plant origin of actual or potential value for food and agriculture. Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture include species (like wheat and rice, apples and pears), varieties (such as the rice varieties Basmati and Jasmin), and genetic variation within varieties. They include agricultural plants as well as their relatives in the wild. For the sake of simplicity, though, we shall be talking about crop genetic diversity in this chapter, and the Treaty with the long-winded name we shall refer to as the Plant Treaty. The purpose of the Plant Treaty is to ensure the conservation and sus-

tainable use of crop genetic diversity and to make sure that the benefits arising from their utilisation are shared equitably – in harmony with the Biodiversity Convention (see Chapter 8). In this way, then, the Plant Treaty seeks to promote sustainable agriculture and facilitate food security in the world. This chapter reviews the challenges facing the management of crop

genetic diversity before presenting the story behind the establishment of the collaborative arrangement, and taking a closer look at the Plant Treaty itself. Although the Treaty is still young, we shall attempt to assess its achievements so far.