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What are farmer's rights?

What are farmer's rights?

As an annex to the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (unanimously adopted through Conference Resolution 8/833) the Conference Resolution 5/894 defines Farmers' Rights as "rights arising from the past, present and future contribution of farmers in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources, particularly those in the centres of origin/diversity." The purpose of these rights is stated to be "ensuring full benefits to farmers and supporting the continuation of their contributions."

3 Extract of the Twenty-Second Session of the FAO Conference, Rome, 5-23 November 1983

4 Extract of the Twenty-Fifth Session of the FAO Conference, Rome, 11-29 November 1989As part of this Resolution, the 25th Session of the FAO Conference endorsed the concept of Farmers Rights with a view to:

During the 26th Session of the FAO Conference, Resolution 3/915 was also adopted unanimously by over 170 countries, endorsing that:

5 Extract of the Twenty-Sixth Session of the FAO Conference, Rome, 9-27 November 1991

The concept of Farmers' Rights provides a measure of counterbalance to "formal' Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and patents that compensate for the latest innovations with little consideration of the fact that, in many cases, these innovations are only the most recent step of accumulative knowledge and inventions that have been carried out over millennia by generations of men and women in different parts of the world (FAO, 1 995a).

Farmers' Rights arise from the past, present and future contributions of farmers in conserving, improving and making available PGR, particularly in centres of origin. They are not assigned to specific varieties, types of plants, or to specific farmers. Their purpose is to encourage farmers and farming communities to nurture and conserve, and to utilize and improve, plant genetic resources (FAO, 1996).

All modern plant varieties contain only those genes that have originated from farmers' traditional varieties (landraces) or wild crop relatives. Yet in many instances, the small scale fanning communities of women and men in the centres of crop diversity are not the farmers to whom improved crop varieties have been provided. Yet these are the women and men which have historically provided the germplasm upon which scientific plant breeding is based. It could be said that germplasm is provided by small-scale subsistence farmers to plant breeders whose varieties are then adapted/developed for medium to large scale commercial farmers (Spillane, 1996).

The contributions of communities to the conservation and regeneration of plant genetic resources (PGR) have been substantial and it has been widely agreed that there should be some form of recognition of their tremendous value, not only to the communities, but also to the nations and to the world as a whole. However, a number of key questions remain, including: how to recognize and attribute a "true' value to these contributions. Furthermore, there has been much debate on how to "activate" or "implement" Farmers Rights, particularly in a way that respects both the tangible, and the not so tangible, contributions of the various actors experimenting with, and conserving, PGR.

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