Biodiversity and Genetic Resources

Open Letter to the Secretary of ITPGRFA on Farmers' Rights

18thSeptember 2014

Dr. Shakeel Bhatti


International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

cc. Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO, Secretary-General of UPOV

cc. Member States of ITPGRFA

Dear Dr. Bhatti,

We the undersigned organizations from around the world are keen to see full implementation of Farmers Rights. The Preamble of the Treaty and Article 9 on Farmers’ Rights, recognizes the contribution that local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA). It also explicitly recognizes that Treaty Members have the responsibility of realizing farmers’ rights. This includes the right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed/propagating material; the right to participate in decision making on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA; the right to participate in the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from, the use of plant genetic resources as well as protection of traditional knowledge relevant to PGRFA. The treaty acknowledges that these elements are fundamental to the realization of Farmers’ Rights and the promotion of Farmers’ Rights at national and international levels.[1] 

Read more: Open Letter to the Secretary of ITPGRFA on...

Mayan People’s Movement Defeats Monsanto Law in Guatemala

b_350_0_16777215_00___images_0-1-0-gmonsanto3.jpg(Guatemala, September 15, 2014) - On September 4th, after ten days of widespread street protests against the biotech giant Monsanto’s expansion into Guatemalan territory, groups of indigenous people joined by social movements, trade unions and farmer and women’s organizations won a victory when congress finally repealed the legislation that had been approved in June.

The demonstrations were concentrated outside the Congress and Constitutional Court in Guatemala City during more than a week, and coincided with several Mayan communities and organizations defending food sovereignty through court injunctions in order to stop the Congress and the President, Otto Perez Molina, from letting the new law on protection of plant varieties, known as the “Monsanto Law”, take effect.

On September 2, the Mayan communities of Sololá, a mountainous region 125 kilometers west from the capital, took to the streets and blocked several main roads. At this time a list of how individual congressmen had voted on the approval of the legislation in June was circulating.

Read more: Mayan People’s Movement Defeats Monsanto Law in...

India - Don’t allow field trials of GM crops: farmers, activists

b_350_0_16777215_00___images_stories_agrarianreform_IMG_20140723_112112903_HDR.jpgThe recent decision of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to allow field trials of GM rice, mustard, cotton, chickpea and brinjal has been met with strong opposition from farmers’ groups and environmental activists.

Seeking the intervention of Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javdekar, the Bhartiya Kisan Union has asked for “annulment” of the approvals.

Questioning the need for release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the fields, the BKU leaders said they were concerned over the nation’s seed and food sovereignty.

Read more: India - Don’t allow field trials of GM crops:...

The government should design a seed policy specific for smallholder farmers, says the ZIMSOFF farmers

b_350_0_16777215_00___images_zimsoff_seeds_2014071.jpg(Zimbabwe, Harare, July 21, 2014) on the 3rd of June, ZIMSOFF invited various stakeholders working on seeds in Zimbabwe to learn more and share its concerns about the proposed regional seed laws. The stakeholders included the government officials, private seed companies, African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), Seed Trade Association, Agricultural Research Council, Seed Services Zimbabwe, Civil Society and Ministry of Agriculture. The meeting stimulated an interesting debate among the farmers, presenters and other participants.

The farmers highlighted that the SADC and COMESA processes are closed systems with minimal participation of CSOs and smallholder farmers, and thus, most of their issues such as the protection of indigenous knowledge systems and farmers’ rights, and the adoption of agro-ecology to achieve food sovereignty, have not been included in national and regional policies which affect their livelihoods.

Read more: The government should design a seed policy...

ZIMSOFF farmers review the implications of the proposed regional seed laws

b_350_0_16777215_00___images_zimsoff_2014061.JPG(Zimbabwe, Harare, July 18, 2014) ZIMSOFF organized a preparatory meeting on the 2nd of June to discuss the implications of the new regional seed policies, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Africa Regional Intellectual Organisation (ARIPO) namely the seed policy harmonization and Plant Variety Protection (PVP), on the smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe. Sixteen ZIMSOFF Council members (who also are farmers) and representatives from the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and Third World network (TWN) participated in the discussions aimed at building the capacity of the smallholder farmers to understand and defend their seed rights nationally.

The proposed regional seed policies, if adopted, will negatively impact on indigenous seeds which ZIMSOFF and La via Campesina promote. The COMESA seed protocol will open national borders through easing market and regulatory requirements on registered commercial seeds; while the SADC and ARIPO will promote the “commercial breeders’ rights” through Plant Variety Protection based on “DUS” (Distinctiveness, Uniformity, Stability). In general, the former, will flood both the regional and local markets with hybrid and genetic modified (GM) seeds and thus push out traditional seeds, the latter, recognizes and promotes commercial breeders and criminalize traditional breeders, who are peasant farmers. The ZIMSOFF Chairperson and La Via Campesina General Coordinator, Elizabeth Mpofu, in her opening remarks, urged the farmers to take these new developments seriously and hold the government accountable.

Read more: ZIMSOFF farmers review the implications of the...

La Via Campesina congratulates the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC): Equator Prize 2014

b_350_0_16777215_00___images_2014-10-06_UAWC_SB2.jpgLa Via Campesina congratulates its member, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) for being among the 35 winners of the Equator Prize 2014, a UNDP initiative which seeks to shine a spotlight on outstanding local efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The benefits, besides prize money, include support to participate in events during the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York in September 2014.


One of the oldest non-profit organizations in the Palestinian Territories, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees supports Palestinian farmers to market their produce, develop agriculture and water resource protection programs, and restore and irrigate their lands. Agricultural extension services are used to train farmers in improved farming practices. The centerpiece of the initiative is a National Bank for Local Seeds, which dries, processes, stores, and documents local seeds with the vision of more organic, healthy and environmentally friendly produce. The seed bank currently has in its storage unit 270 entries from 36 agricultural products, belonging to 12 plant families. Families relying on dry-farmed crops have free access to seeds, with the understanding that double the amount be reinvested in the bank for other farmers once crops have been planted.

ARIPO’s Draft Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (“DRAFT Protocol”) Undermines Farmers’ Rights, Lacks Credibility & Legitimacy

Open letter to members of the international convention for the protection of new varieties of plants (UPOV)

Dear UPOV Members,

(9th April 2014) We the undersigned organizations from Africa and around the world are concerned with the conservation of agricultural biodiversity for livelihood security and food sovereignty, promoting farmers’ rights and citizen involvement in the decision-making process. The undersigned organizations would like to express serious concerns with the ARIPO Draft Protocol that has been submitted by ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization) on 6 March 2014, for the consideration of the UPOV Council at its 31st Session in Geneva on 11 April 11, 2014.

Read more: ARIPO’s Draft Protocol for the Protection of...

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