9 March 2017
Our new Research Brief The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights summarizes key findings linked to the recognition of peasants’ right to seeds in the context of the current negotiation of a UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration) at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).
For over 10,000 years, peasants have saved, selected, exchanged and sold seeds, as well as used and reused them to produce food.
While these customary rights have been recognized in international law since 2001, peasants are faced with significant challenges. The promotion of commercial seed systems and the adoption of national laws for the implementation of international trade agreements often prioritize the protection of private intellectual property rights over seeds at the expense of peasant communities. ‘This tendency to protect commercial interests of plant breeders and patent-holders – in many cases corporations – often runs against peasants’ rights to food and seeds’ underlines Christophe Golay, the author of the report.
Today, the vast majority of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on peasant food and seeds systems. The recognition of the right to seeds in the UN Declaration is therefore crucial for the realization of peasants’ human rights, notably their right to food.
As HR are higher norms than intellectual property rights, such recognition would require the revision of national laws and trade agreements to make sure that they do not infringe, but facilitate the realization of peasants’ rights to food and seeds.
‘There are precedents that show that this can be done’ highlights Christophe Golay. The recognition of the rights to health and access to medicine in the context of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS agreement) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 is one of them. Another is the adoption of the 2001 Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act in India.
‘In drafting the UN Declaration, negotiators should recognize the core elements of the right to seeds’ stresses Christophe Golay. ‘These include peasants’ rights to save, exchange, donate, sell, use and reuse farm-saved seeds of peasants’ varieties, and to maintain, control, protect and develop these seeds and property over them’ he adds.
Our new Research Brief Gender Equality and the Right to Food in Contexts of Agricultural Commercialization highlights the role international human rights law and policies on the right to food and gender equality may play in mitigating the negative impacts of agricultural development.
Asian Development Bank
The article Engendering the Right to Food? International Human Rights Law, Food Security and the Rural Woman, written by our Senior Research Fellow Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni, examines how United Nations human rights mechanisms address the role and status of rural women in the context of food security and the rights to food and land.
This event, organized by the Permanent Mission of Japan and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of France, Canada, Mexico and Finland and the Geneva Academy, will discuss the challenges in economically empowering women.
This project aims to raise awareness about the complementarity of human rights and development by analyzing the relationship between economic, social and cultural rights and global development goals, namely the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 and the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015.
After having provided academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration for ten years, this research project focuses on the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.