| BEST PRACTICES:
What are successes regarding traditional knowledge
related to agro-biodiversity?
related to agro-biodiversity is vital to understanding the properties of
plants, their uses and how to cultivate them. One measure to protect and
promote Farmers' Rights, as set out in Article 9.2 (a) of the International
Treaty, involves the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant
genetic resources for food and agriculture. However, the International Treaty
does not specify this suggestion in greater detail.
At the informal
international consultation on Farmers' Rights in Lusaka in 2007, various
examples were given and proposals offered on how national or local governments
could support such initiatives. Ideally, farmers' varieties and associated
knowledge should be documented and seeds stored in gene banks, in order to
ensure that these valuable resources are shared and do not become extinct.
However, several participants expressed concern about the legal status of such
collections. If readily available, seeds could also be picked up by commercial
actors and used without obtaining prior informed consent from the farmers, or
benefit-sharing arrangements. There is widespread concern that local
communities might lose control of their plant genetic resources, particularly
if modified forms of these resources are made subject to intellectual property
rights. This situation points to the difficult dilemma between sharing seeds
and traditional knowledge to avoid extinction - and protecting it against
misappropriation. Participants at the Lusaka consultation also expressed regret
that it is deemed necessary to show such caution with activities so vital for
further availability of genetic resources and related knowledge due to the fear
of misappropriation. This fear basically hampers conservation work aimed at
enhancing farmers' varieties and strengthening their seed systems - which is
crucial to the future of our plant genetic heritage.
In light of these
central considerations, an ultimate goal for activities aimed at protecting
traditional knowledge related to agro-biodiversity would be to facilitate
documentation and free sharing of such knowledge among farmers - while also
ensuring that no misappropriation takes place.
One challenge in
registering and documenting traditional varieties of plants lies in the genetic
heterogeneity of these varieties. They are difficult to describe as varieties,
and that is part of the problem when it comes to the fear of misappropriation.
For a plant breeder to be granted plant variety protection, it is sufficient to
discover a variety and develop it, for example in terms of genetic
purification. If the prior existence of the variety cannot be documented,
farmers will often not be in position to challenge such a right. For that
reason, developing improved methods of documenting traditional varieties can
represent important achievements for protecting traditional knowledge against
misappropriation - as well as against extinction.
In other parts of the
world, particularly in the North, farmers do not fear misappropriation of
seeds, as they themselves have not experienced losing any rights to seeds
through misappropriation. In such countries, the problems are different: the
farmers involved in maintaining agro-biodiversity are getting scarce - and they
are ageing. What they fear is that their traditional knowledge will die with
them. Here an important objective becomes to ensure that the knowledge does not
vanish from history.
Pages in this
WHAT IS A 'SUCCESS STORY' OF FARMERS'
What are successes
regarding the right to save,use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed?
What are successes regarding
traditional knowledge related to agro-biodiversity?
What are successes regarding
successes regarding participation in decision making?