RECONCILING the provision of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and farmers' rights is legally impossible, admits GATT chief Peter Sutherland in a recent article published in the Indian media. Farmers' traditional rights include their rights to use part of their harvest as seeds for the next season and to sell some seed "across the fence" to neighbours and others. Sutherland says that fence sales of seeds will continue because they are impossible to control.
However, he argues that it would be difficult to provide "an exception of the law for such sales". Nevertheless, if they are termed non-commercial exchanges, they can be ignored by the government. Owners of protected varieties would also ignore them if the sales do not acquire the scale of major commercial transactions.
Sutherland, thus, admits that farmers' rights cannot be protected by law but the law can be ignored as long as the illegal transactions remain small. This is more or less what the Indian law is attempting to do.