Tonga_webTonga and Papua New Guinea have signed a key international treaty that promotes sustainable global food security.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is vital in ensuring continued availability of plant genetic resources that countries rely on to feed their people, allowing future generations to access the genetic diversity that is essential for food and agriculture.

Tonga will become the 134th contracting party today (16 March), while Papua New Guinea will formally join on 15 May 2015, thanks to technical support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The ministers of agriculture in the Pacific region endorsed a recommendation in 2012 to support Pacific Island countries and territories that had not yet ratified the Treaty to do so. Other contracting parties from the southwest Pacific are Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau and Samoa.

Countries are increasingly dependent on one another for food security through sharing crop and plant resources, and Pacific populations are benefitting from many crops that are not native to the region but are critical for sustaining food and nutrition security.

Secretary of the International Treaty, Dr Shakeel Bhatti, said: “The Kingdom of Tonga will be eligible to participate in both monetary and non-monetary benefit-sharing mechanisms, including initiatives on technology transfer, capacity building, and value-added information about food crops from the Treaty’s Global Information System on Plant Genetic Resources.”

“We are delighted to welcome Papua New Guinea to the Treaty Community, and look forward to others in the southwest Pacific joining our growing membership. With their accession, Papua New Guinea and Tonga join the Treaty’s multilateral system, a global gene pool of more than 1.6 million accessions of the most important food plants,” Dr Bhatti added.

Director of SPC’s Land Resources Division, Inoke Ratukalou, said: “We can no longer work in isolation, and the Treaty provides security as a tool for long-term food and nutrition security in our Pacific region. Many of the crops and much of the food we use come from outside of our countries.

“In light of global disasters and climate change it’s important that our countries have the adaptive capacity and resilient agricultural systems provided through access to more resilient crops from the global gene pool,” Mr Ratukalou said.

The SPC Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) accesses and distributes resilient crop diversity from the global gene pool of the Treaty’s multilateral system using a standard material transfer agreement, in collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust and Consultative Group of the International Agricultural Research Institutes.

The Treaty Secretariat of FAO, SPC and Pacific Island countries and territories work together in assisting other non-contracting parties in the region – which include Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – to join the Treaty.

Media contacts: Valerie S Tuia, SPC Genetic Resources Coordinator, Centre For Pacific Crops and Trees, Suva [email protected], +679 788 2619,

Sione Foliaki, Tonga’s Treaty focal point [email protected];

Toshiro Shigaki, PNG’s Treaty focal point [email protected]