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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Photo: Development FundThis site will be expanded to include more questions. If your question is not posed here, please let us know.

   What are Farmers' Rights?
   When did the concept of Farmers' Rights first appear?
   Why are Farmers' Rights important?
   What is agricultural biodiversity?
   What are plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA)?
   What is genetic material?
   What is ex situ conservation?
   What is in situ conservation?



What are Farmers' Rights?

Farmers' Rights are basically about enabling farmers to continue their work as stewards and innovators of agricultural biodiversity, and about recognizing and rewarding them for their contribution to the global pool of genetic resources. Farmers' Rights are addressed in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, but are not defined there. However, measures to protect and promote these rights are suggested, including the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to crop genetic resources, the right of farmers to equitably participate in the sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of crop genetic resources, and the right to participate in decision making processes at the national level on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of these resources. Farmers' Rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and propagating material are also addressed. Read more >


When did the concept of Farmers' Rights first appear?

The idea of Farmers' Rights came up in the early 1980s as a countermove to the increased demand for plant breeders' rights, as voiced in international negotiations. The purpose was to draw attention to the unremunerated innovations of farmers that were seen as the foundation of all modern plant breeding. The concept was first brought up in international negotiations in 1986. Read more >


Why are Farmers' Rights important?

Farmers' Rights are a precondition for the maintenance of crop genetic diversity, which is the basis of all food and agriculture production in the world. Genetic diversity of agricultural plants is the very basis of farming. It provides the pool from which plant traits can be found which meet the challenges of crop pests and diseases, of marginal soils, and - not least - of changing climate conditions. Genetic diversity is also vital for spreading risks for smallholder farmers. Plant genetic diversity is probably more important for farming than any other single environmental factor, simply because it is the factor that enables adaptation to changing environmental conditions. As farmers are custodians and developers of crop genetic resources, their rights in this regard are crucial for enabling them to maintain this vital role for local and global food security. The realization of Farmers' Rights is therefore also a central means to achieving UN Millennium Development Goal 1 on eradicating extreme hunger and poverty. Read more >


What is agricultural biodiversity?

The term agricultural biodiversity (also called agro-biodiversity) refers to the diversity of plants and animals used for food and agriculture production.


What are plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA)?

PGRFA is defined in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as any genetic material of plant origin of actual or potential value for food and agriculture. This means that the genetic material of all the various crops grown around the world today, as well as any genetic material that may prove to be of value to food production and agriculture, are encompassed by the term.


What is genetic material?

Genetic material is defined in the International Treaty as any material of plant origin, including reproductive and vegetative propagating material, containing functional units of heredity. Seeds and propagating material are genetic material.


What is ex situ conservation?

Ex situ conservation means conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture outside their natural habitats. This often means conservation of seeds and propagating material in gene banks.


What is in situ conservation?

In situ conservation means the conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated plant species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties. For domesticated plants for food and agriculture, this means in farmers' fields and in gardens.
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