Plant Variety Protection To Meet Food Security Plant Treaty, But Where Are Farmers’ Rights? 28/04/2016 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe here. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate. A planned symposium to identify potential interrelations between the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), and the United Nations International Plant Treaty is raising concerns from civil society about farmers’ rights. The 33rd extraordinary session of the Council of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), in March agreed “to propose a joint UPOV-ITPGRFA [International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture] Symposium on areas of interrelations between the ITPGRFA and the UPOV Convention, to be held in Geneva on October 26, 2016, with a recommendation that the Symposium be open to the public,” according to a UPOV press release [pdf]. Plant variety protection is an international trade requirement under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This protection may be implemented through a sui generis system. UPOV is such sui generis system, and currently has 74 members [pdf], including the African Intellectual Property Organization. According to a report [pdf] by the UPOV Council president, the ITPGRFA secretariat proposed a draft programme including an overview of the two organisations, and an analysis of the inter-relation between farmers’ rights and plant breeders’ rights under both conventions presented by four experts. The draft programme also includes experiences of the UPOV contracting parties on the implementation of the UPOV Convention and the Plant Treaty, and practical initiatives involving the Plant Treaty and UPOV, according to the document. The president’s report also notes that the UPOV Consultative Committee endorsed the element of the draft programme but said more than four presentations by contracting parties might be necessary and noted “that it would be useful to provide information on real problems experienced by farmers and breeders.” According to the Association for Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (ABPREBES), the projected symposium is “inadequate to implement the resolution” of the Plant Treaty Governing Body. The resolution, they said in a release, was “to invite UPOV and WIPO to jointly identify possible areas of interrelations among their respective international instruments,” in the context of farmers’ rights. One key concerns, according to APBREBES, is the fact that UPOV “in particular its Act of 1991, places severe restrictions on the right of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell seeds.” “APBREBES is concerned that a symposium will mainly be an arena where countries and other stakeholders present their views and experiences and will not provide the in-depth, thorough and evidence based analysis needed to meet the objectives of the ITPGRFA Governing Body resolutions,” it said. According to the civil society group, the programme of the symposium has diverged from the objective of the Governing Body Resolutions, “which was about examining the interrelations between UPOV and the ITPGRFA with a focus on farmers’ rights. Instead, the programme examines in general the interrelations between UPOV and the ITPGRFA.” “It seems that UPOV has hijacked the whole process and the ITPGRFA has lost control,” APREBES said. “While the process was first developed by the ITPGRFA with a lot of emphasis on ‘a participatory and inclusive process’ the process to develop the program of the Symposium as well as the Symposium itself is neither participatory nor inclusive. There is a serious risk that the main questions regarding farmers’ rights will not be tackled.” The group, which has observer status at UPOV, asked that the proposed programme be amended to ensure that “the Symposium is focused on interrelations with respect to farmers’ rights.” WIPO Silent The IPTGRFA governing body also asked that the interrelation between the World Intellectual Property Organization and the IPTGRFA be explored. According to a source, WIPO has not responded yet to the invitation sent by the IPTGRFA. During the last session of the WIPO Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) earlier this month, the non-profit Third World Network, in its intervention, requested further information on “how WIPO intends to deal with the matter and how WIPO member states will be involved in this discussion.” The group remarked that the report [pdf] of the WIPO director general on the implementation of the WIPO Development Agenda “is silent on this matter.” TWN suggested that it would be useful to invite the secretary of the ITPGRFA to brief the next session of the CDIP on the issue of interrelations. The ITPGRFA secretariat did not provide comments as of press time. 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