Farmers' Rights
About FR
State of FR
Legislation database
How to realize FR
Best practices
FR internationally
The FR Project


Two approaches to Farmers' Rights

An international stakeholder survey from the Farmers' Rights Project covering diverse views on Farmers' Rights shows that these many perceptions generally fall within one of two main approaches, or somewhere in-between:

   The ownership approach refers to the right of farmers to be rewarded for genetic material obtained from their fields and used in commercial varieties and/or protected through intellectual property rights. The idea is that such a reward system is necessary to enable equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of agro-biodiversity and to establish an incentive structure for continued maintenance of this diversity. Access and benefit-sharing legislation and farmers' intellectual property rights are suggested as central instruments.

   The stewardship approach refers to the rights that farmers must be granted in order to enable them to continue as stewards and as innovators of agro-biodiversity. The idea is that the 'legal space' required for farmers to continue this role must be upheld and that farmers involved in maintaining agro-biodiversity – on behalf of our generation, for the benefit of all mankind – should be recognized and rewarded for their contributions.

These are very different approaches to Farmers' Rights. How different they can be will become evident when they are applied to the measures suggested for the realization of Farmers' Rights in Article 9 of the International Treaty. This is illustrated in the table below, and is explained in the following pages (from a report by Regine Andersen):

Goals for the realization of Farmers' Rights: TWO APPROACHES
Protection of farmers' traditional knowledge (§ 9.2.a) The goals are to protect this knowledge against extinction and thus to encourage its further use. The goals are to protect the knowledge against misappropriation and to enable its holders to decide over its use.
Equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources (§ 9.2.b) Benefits are to be shared between stewards of plant genetic resources and society at large – partly through the Multilateral System and ODA. Benefits are to be shared between purported 'owners' and 'buyers' of genetic resources upon prior informed consent on mutually agreed terms.
Participation in relevant decisions at the national level (§ 9.2.c) Participation is important to ensure legal space and rewards for farmers' contributions to the genetic pool. Participation is important to ensure adequate legislation on access and intellectual property rights.
Farmers' customary use of propagation material (saving, sharing, selling) (§ 9.3) The goal is to uphold the legal space to ensure farmers' continued maintenance of plant genetic resources. The goal is to introduce farmers' intellectual property rights along with breeders' rights - in balance.

Pages in this sub-section:
   Two approaches to Farmers' Rights
   Approaches to protecting farmers' traditional knowledge
   Approaches to ensuring equitable benefit sharing
   Approaches to ensuring farmers' participation in decision-making
   Approaches to farmers' customary use of propagating material
   Conditions for the combination of approaches
   Towards a common ground of understanding
   What this may mean in practice
Top top
 In this section:
  Farmers' Rights in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  Why Farmers' Rights matter
  The contents of Farmers' Rights
  History of Farmers' Rights in the FAO
  Farmers' Rights in the literature
  Civil Society Organizations' approaches to Farmers' Rights

Photo: G. Ulutuncok