“Seed policies and the right to food”; The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food from the UN website*
(*I was having problems with this link today; so if you too have problems connecting to the UN docs library link then please try this alternative link from the “Voices from Africa” website – Kay)
The report is written by Olivier De Schutter who is currently the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Click here for the annoucement that it will be presented at the UN General Assembly on October 21st.
The Summary concludes with:
“The…report explores how States could implement seed policies that contribute to the full realization of human rights. It identifies how research and development could best serve the poorest farmers in developing countries, and how commercial seed systems could be regulated to serve the right to food and ensure the right of all to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress. Finally, it examines how farmers’ seed systems could best be supported, in order to serve the interest of all in the preservation of agrobiodiversity.”
The report looks, in some detail, at IP issues and at the role of TRIPS, UPOV and CBD. Section headings include:
- The developing regime of IP rights and biodiversity protection
- The expansion of IP rights
- The protection of biodiversity and the risk of misappropriation of genetic resources
- Crop genetic diversity as a global public good
- Redirecting innovation towards the realization of the right to food
- IP rights in the commercial seed systems and the right to food
- Farmers’ seed systems and the right to food
In the conclusion, the report calls for continued innovation on all fronts and urges a non-linear approach:
“Our paradigm of agricultural development must…be redefined”.
Donors and both the CGIAR and FAO are called upon to assist and support such innovation.
This report underlines the complexity of the work we are engaged in pursuing, and focuses attention on IP issues.
Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP
Interesting article from Allafrica.com. It deals with a thorny collection of the issues surrounding seed, increasing use of UPOV protection by seed developers, the rights of farmers, genetic diversity and the livelihoods of poor farmers.
The AllAfrica write up also references a news release that was on the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) website. This article also includes several references to the loss of benefit to small-scale farmers from new variety development. The IIED say in their post:
“Small-scale farmers rarely benefit when outsiders such as corporate plant breeders make use of their traditional seeds to develop new varieties, because the plant breeders acquire the intellectual property rights when they test and register the new varieties.”
It is worth pointing out that IPRs over a new variety don’t affect the rights of the traditional variety used in the breeding. The public sector should be aware of the workings of the formal IP sector to be able protect its public goods effectively. Being proactive about cataloguing and listing known varieties in common knowledge databases will avoid confusion about what is new and what is not! This is critical information to a PVP examiner processing an application for a “new” variety. The PVP system could also help ensure existing knowledge remains free from restriction, but of course only if that “existing knowledge” is specified and accessible to examiners.
Seems we weren’t the only ones to raise an eyebrow at the IIED article. See the post (and subsequent debate) on the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog from earlier this month. It picks up on the subject of genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). It’s a good read!
Thanks to Kalpana Sastry, Principal Scientist at NAARM for sending the AllAfrica link.