| THE HISTORY OF FARMERS'
RIGHTS IN THE FAO:
FR in the Keystone
The Keystone Dialoges from 1988 until 1991 were
instrumental in framing the issue of Farmers' Rights and providing a basis for
the recognition of these rights by the FAO Conference.
|Keystone Center (1991): Oslo Plenary Session.
Final Consensus Report: Global Initiative for the Security and Sustainable Use
of Plant Genetic Resources. Third Plenary Session, 31 May-4 June 1991,
Oslo, Norway (Keystone, Colorado: Keystone Center).
In the controversies on control over genetic
resources in the 1980s, there were deep conflict lines between the parties.
That is why William Brown, then chair of the US National Board for Plant
Genetic Resources, initiated a contact with the Keystone Center in Colorado,
with the request of holding a dialogue on plant genetic resources among
international stakeholders Cary Fowler (1994): Unnatural Selection.
Technology, Politics and Plant Evolution, Yverdon, Switzerland: Gordon and
Breach, 1994, p. 197). The Keystone Approach was to invite stakeholders as
individuals, to reduce conflict level and seek dialogue, to keep the
discussions off the record, and to produce a report on the basis of consensus
only. The Keystone Dialogues took place in 1988, 1990 and 1991, in Keystone, in
Madras (now Chennai) and in Oslo respectively, and were chaired by the
distinguished Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, who also led an Interim Steering
Committee that gave direction to the dialogues. Facilitators were the staff of
the Keystone Center.
national funding and to some extent intellectual
property rights. The 1990 Session in Madras provided the most expressive
account of the participants' recommendations regarding Farmers' Rights, and was
based on the 1988 dialogue in Keystone (Keystone Center: Madras Plenary
Session. Final Consensus Report of the Keystone International Dialogue Series
on Plant Genetic Resources, Second Plenary Session, 29 January - 2
February, 1990, Madras, India, pp. 25-26):
"We propose that the best
way of recognizing Farmers' Rights would be a mandatory fund, such as the fund
currently existing at FAO, which supports genetic conservation and utilization
programs particularly, but not exclusively, in the Third World. The logic is
that such a fund would benefit farmers and farm communities in general, and
would compensate them for their past and present contributions. We are not
talking about designing a system to reward or compensate individual farmers,
farm communities, Third World countries or governments. We do not propose to
design a system which compensates anyone or anything based strictly on their
contributions of germplasm.
We speak of 'compensation'
because it implies a relationship with obligation. We agree on the concept of
Farmers' Rights and we agree that contributions to a fund in recognition of
these rights should not be voluntary. Practically speaking, a voluntary fund is
a fund without resources. Thus, there should be a compulsory funding mechanism.
This would insure that Farmers' Rights are recognized in a real way and should
insure the fund has substantial resources. All of us agree that current
conservation and utilization efforts are underfunded.
concept of 'Farmers' Rights' includes recognition of the fact that farmers have
developed and continue to help develop genetic diversity. In many cases,
farmers engage in conscious and creative practices as they 'select' and 'breed'
As we shall see, these ideas found support when the
agreed interpretations of the International Undertaking were to be formulated,
which were adopted in 1989 and in 1991.
Pages in this sub-section:
THE HISTORY OF FARMERS' RIGHTS IN THE
The history of
Farmers' Rights in overview
First use of Farmers' Rights
Origin of the concept in
FR in the Keystone
Conference Resolutions on FR
CBD and Agenda 21 on
Global Plan of
Breakthrough of the