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FARMERS' RIGHTS LEGISLATION & POLICY DATABASE:

The categories

Seven categories of legislation and policies have been selected for our database. The laws, regulations and policy documents are listed according to the categories relevant for their contents. In some cases these are more than one category. Then they are listed in all categories applicable.

Why are these seven categories relevant for Farmers' Rights?:
    Farmers' Rights and community rights related to crop genetic resources
   Conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic resources
   Traditional knowledge
   Bioprospecting, including access and benefit sharing
   Seeds and certification
   Plant variety protection, also called plant breeders' rights
   Patents



Farmers' Rights and community rights related to crop genetic resources

Legislation and policies on Farmers' Rights are directly addressing the issue. Legislation and policies on community rights are relevant because they often explicitly or implicitly cover Farmers' Rights, or because they affect farmers' agricultural practices.



Conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic resources

Legislation and policies on conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic resources affect farmers' practices and thus the very basis of Farmers' Rights. They are often supportive of these rights in terms of strengthening farmers practices related to the conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic resources, which can be seen as a form of benefit sharing. Many of the laws and policies listed here in the database, however, do not specifically address crop genetic resources, but conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in general. In such cases, it is important to be aware of the possible negative effects that may arise if farmers are not permitted to carry out their customary agricultural practices, for example in protected areas.



Traditional knowledge

Legislation and policies on the protection of traditional knowledge are normally derived more or less from the Convention on Biological Diversity and thus related to all forms of traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities related to biological diversity. Thus they are relevant also for the protection of traditional knowledge related to crop genetic diversity, as addressed in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Normally they are developed to protect traditional knowledge from misappropriation. However, it is important to be aware of the possibility that such laws and policies might conflict with another aspect of this issue: protecting traditional knowledge against extinction. The most important measure to protect traditional knowledge from extinction is the sharing of traditional knowledge. Laws and policies that make such sharing difficult, for example by providing for complicated procedures of prior informed consent, might negatively affect the sharing of traditional knowledge among farmers if they hinder conservation work.



Bioprospecting, including access and benefit sharing

Legislation on bioprospecting are normally derived more or less from the Convention on Biological Diversity for the purpose of regulating the conditions for access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use. As the Convention covers all forms of biological diversity, including crop genetic resources, such laws and policies normally apply to such resources. However, they are often developed with a view to wild biodiversity, and not to domesticated resources. As a result they may, dependent on the effectiveness and efficiency of their implementation, make access to crop genetic resources particularly difficult, and subsequently the benefit sharing that was envisaged to follow from such access. Furthermore, as access to genetic resources is in itself a benefit, they may negatively affect benefit sharing, as addressed in the provisions on Farmers' Rights in the International Treaty. The international community is seeking more effective ways of ensuring access and benefit sharing through the negotiations of a new international regime on access and benefit sharing under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Since the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources entered into force in 2004, and its Multilateral System with the Standard Material Transfer Agreement became operational in 2007, the 35 food plants and 29 forage plants covered by the Multilateral System will be subject to other forms of regulation to ensure facilitated access, with a simplified mechanism of benefit sharing. This applies to such plants of the 64 species that are in the public domain and under the control of the Parties to the International Treaty. In practice, the Multilateral System will mainly apply to genetic resources in gene banks. In other words, conservation activities related to crop genetic resources in farmers' fields may still be covered by the legislation and policies in the countries on bioprospecting.



Seeds and certification

Seed laws are developed for the purpose of ensuring plant health and seed quality. Normally they comprise regulations on certification of plant varieties, to ensure that only those varieties are allowed into the market, that comply with certain criteria. These criteria are usually quite strict, comprising genetic distinctness, uniformity and stability. Mostly, farmers' varieties do not meet these criteria, and if certification is a criterion for entering the market, it means that farmers' varieties are not allowed into the market. In some cases, the laws and regulations comprise provisions prohibiting also the exchange and the giving away of seeds and propagating material that is not certified. Furthermore, there are laws and regulations providing that only authorized seed shops are allowed to sell seeds, and that all other forms of exchange are prohibited. Such laws and regulations are clearly negative to Farmers' Rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and propagating material.



Plant variety protection, also called plant breeders' rights

Laws and regulations on plant variety protection are introduced to enable plant breeders to cover the costs of the production of new varieties of plants, and to provide incentives for further development of such varieties. Such protection is also called plant breeders' rights, and they affect Farmers' Rights to the extent that they limit farmers' practices of saving, using, exchanging and selling farm saved seeds of protected varieties. Sometimes such laws and regulations also have provisions on prior art, establishing conditions of novelty. These provisions may refer to documented varieties, and thus not cover the varieties in farmers' fields that have not been documented. Thus, these varieties may be made subject to plant variety protection by plant breeders. This is possible if the laws and regulations allow plant variety protection on varieties that have been discovered and developed (which is quite usual in current legislation).



Patents

Patents are the strongest form of intellectual property rights protection and affect Farmers' Rights to the extent that they prohibit farmers from using protected varieties in their customary ways.
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  LEGISLATION DATABASE
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Photo: Fulvio Eccardi
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 The Farmers' Rights Legislation Database depends on input from you. Please help us update our database by reporting new FR-related legislation in your country to us. Contact details >