Farmer's right

A new draft of the Union for Protection of New Plants Varieties protects the rights of the farmers

Published: Sunday 31 January 1999

The Union for Protection of New Plant Varieties (upov) is a 23-member Geneva-based organisation which regulates plant breeders rights for the industrial nations. Recently, the Union government of India expressed its idesire to become a memberof this international body. There are many in India who oppose this arguing that the upov, in its present form, is discriminatory.

S K Sinha of Centre for Environment and Development (cead), a Delhi-based non governmental organisation (ngo), says that the upov does not protect the rights of the farmers, it only protects that of the breeder.

Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, another Delhi-based ngo says that instead of becoming a member of upov, the Union agriculture ministry should create a platform for developing countries in order to protect the farmers as well as breeders' right. She feels that the farmers' interests must be protected as they are the protectors of the seeds.

To further this point, these two organisations have come up with a new draft which, says Sahai, protects the rights of farmers and above all, that of the developing countries. Called the Convention of Farmers and Breeders (cofab), it will be presented to the Indian President K R Narayanan and the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

"The new draft recognises the farmers' knowledge of seeds and takes into consideration their contribution to conservation," said Sahai.

"India had earlier agreed to introduce Plant Breeders' rights as part of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (trips). But now the Union art of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (trips). But now the Union agriculture ministry is moving towards becoming a member of upov," she adds.

"Only two to five per cent of the population in industrial countries practice agriculture as a purely commercial activity.

But in India, a majority of the farmers practice agriculture. If India joined upov, it will be forced to accept the patenting of plant varieties which is not in its interest," she adds.

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