ITPGRFA, Farmers’ Rights, and Biocultural Heritage

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Colleagues from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Asociacion ANDES, Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, and Ecoserve have submitted a paper to the 4th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), which is being held in Bali from March 14-18. The paper, entitled “Implementing Farmers’ Rights under the FAO International Treaty on PGRFA: The Need for a Broad Approach Based on Biocultural Heritage”, calls for the protection of farmers’ rights in ways that go beyond just benefit-sharing to include their customary rights over genetic resources and associated landscapes, cultural values, and customary laws, all of which the continued conservation and improvement of locally adapted crops depend upon.

The Treaty is intended to support farmers’ rights in various ways, including:

  • Protecting rights over traditional knowledge to ensure benefit-sharing from commercial use;
  • Ensuring farmers get an equitable share of benefits that arise from the commercial use of traditional crops; and
  • Ensuring farmers have a say in national decision-making on the conservation and sustainable use of Plant Genetic Resources.

However, senior IIED researcher Krystyna Swiderska says that the Treaty has so far been poorly implemented by FAO member states and that otherwise well-intentioned provisions are being undermined by other international agreements that are forging ahead. “The result is a perverse outcome,” says Swiderska. “Small-scale farmers in developing countries are getting no incentive to conserve their local agricultural biodiversity, while commercial interests are being well-served.”

Find out more about farmers’ rights here. Follow coverage of the ITPGRFA negotiations in Bali provided by the International Institute for Sustainable Development Reporting Services (IISD-RS).

13 March 2011

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