Farmers’ rights to reproduce and protect farm-saved seeds

La Vía Campesina— Media Advisory

Nusa Dua, Bali 15 March 2011

One of the most important reasons for Via Campesina’s participation in the UN Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is the implementation of Farmers’ Rights. According to the Treaty, the 127 signatory states must protect farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange, sell and protect farm-saved seeds; they must encourage their participation in decisions related to seed conservation; states must also protect farmers’ traditional knowledge.

However, since 2004, when the Treaty came into force, it has done nothing to enforce these rights. Instead it has prioritized facilitating seed industry access to public seed collections. The Seed Treaty is the only treaty contemplating Farmers’ Rights, but member states do not respect these laws, contrary to their respect of industrial property rights. National and international seed laws privatize seeds through patents or plant variety protection, thereby denying Farmers’ Rights. We emphasize that the Treaty must place these Rights at the highest level, and that they must be guaranteed in every one of the countries that have ratified it.

At this fourth Governing Body session, the African Group of countries has shown interest in Farmers’ Rights and has stated that the states do not comply with the Treaty if they do not advance on Farmers’ Rights or do not contribute financially to the Treaty.

Via Campesina supports the position of the African Group and considers that the Treaty has failed without concrete role particularly on the availability of resources that come from the public fund to support implementation of Farmers’ Rights. We demand that these rights be obligatory for Treaty compliance and that the rights of breeders be subordinated to Farmers’ Rights.  The Treaty can advance by providing guidelines for states to comply.

This is the basis upon which we can continue to collaborate with the Seed Treaty: It must respect our rules and our rights, and forbid Industrial Property Rights and genetically-modified organisms. In order to implement Farmers’ Rights, states must begin by repealing seed laws that privatize seeds and thereby deny Farmers’ Rights. Independently of the Treaty, we farmers will continue to reproduce biodiversity first and foremost in our fields. We also construct our own “multilateral system” by putting community “ex situ collections” as close as possible to our field so that farmers keep control, responsibility and access to them.

Via Campesina calls for the rapid approval and ratification a United Nations convention on peasant rights, which includes the right to seeds. We will continue to demand that agriculture and seeds are out of the WTO and Free Trade Agreements.

For further information on our position regarding the Seed Treaty, we draw attention to its Bali Seed Declaration (available in Bahasa Indonesia, English, Spanish and French at ). The document is a result of the meeting of small-scale seed farmer member of La Via Campesina, where the organization of our local, regional and international seed networks was discussed from 7-12 March 2011 in Nusa Dua, Bali.