The framework of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has made many crop wild relatives held in public collections around the world available for use in research and breeding. For example, more than 10,000 accessions of CWR held in the CGIAR collections are accessible through the International Treaty. The International Treaty establishes a multilateral system in which more than one hundred participating countries have committed to sharing the genetic resources of the food crops most important for global food security, including crop wild relatives. The International Treaty promotes the exchange of crop wild relatives and other plant genetic resources and ensures that the benefits arising from their use are shared fairly and equitably.
The International Treaty was adopted in 2001 by the Thirty-First Session of the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and aims to create a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and researchers with facilitated access to crop diversity. Those who access genetic materials through the Multilateral System established through the International Treaty are required to share any benefits they receive from commercial products arising from their use by contributing monetarily to a Benefit-Sharing Fund, if said products are not made publicly available. The International Treaty furthermore recognizes the significant contributions farmers have made to the ongoing development of crop diversity and works to include them in decision-making processes and ensure that they share in the benefits arising from the use of these resources.
The Benefit-Sharing Fund invests in projects that support the improved management, conservation, and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The conservation of crop wild relatives is included within the scope of these projects; for example, the Benefit-Sharing Fund has invested in a project to conserve Zea nicaraguensis, a wild relative of maize.