CSO Statement on Agricultural Biodiversity and the International Seed Treaty (ITPGRFA)
CSO Statement on Agricultural Biodiversity and the Iternational Seed Treaty (ITPGRFA)
Presented by Joyce Hambling of GEN at CBD/COP6, 10 April 2002
We welcome the long-awaited conclusion of negotiations of this International Seed Treaty. The security of these crops and forages is now one step closer. They are important not only to produce the food we eat but also form part of the world's agricultural biodiversity and sustain agricultural landscapes. Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture sustain the lives and livelihoods and ecosystems of the majority of the world's population especially marginalised communities.
Thus the Treaty stands at the crossroads of Agriculture, Trade and Environment. We join with others in applauding the hard work the FAO Commission, especially the Secretariat and Chair Gerbasi, in achieving this historic agreement.
Our support is qualified, however.
Civil Society organisations, many of whom cannot be with us today, have worked for more than 20 years to get to this point, but it is only a first step in securing all genetic resources for food and agriculture - ensuring their sustainable use, conservation and continued open access by farmers, herders and fisherfolk, free of intellectual property rights restrictions.
As with the Biosafety Protocol we eagerly anticipate rapid ratification of the Treaty by 40 countries so that it can come into force. However, we urge the COP to put continued pressure on the Treaty's Governing Body to address the outstanding issues on intellectual property rights, relationship with the WTO especially TRIPs, material transfer agreements, financing, and strengthening the international implementation of Farmers' Rights.
The Treaty recognises Farmers' Rights to save, exchange and sell seeds but subordinates these to National Laws some of which are restrictive through recognition of patents and other IPRs on plant genetic resources. Other laws, such as the African Union Model Law on Community Rights does not subordinate Farmers' Rights but recognises them as inalienable.
Taking our inspiration from the preambular comment in your Convention:
"...that it is vital to anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity at source"
Agricultural biodiversity is in such a perilous state. Losses of more than 90% of crop varieties from farmers' fields in the past century are accelerating as the globalisation of trade, consumer cultures and patenting bites deeper.
Civil Society joins with others to calls on the COP to underscore the importance of this Treaty, perhaps by making it the basis of a separately identifiable Decision.
Throughout these negotiations we have taken a consistent position in opposition to Intellectual Property Rights on genetic resources, and will continue to do so in defence of farmers and farming communities.
We would urge countries to make especial efforts to sign the Treaty before the World Food Summit: five years later in June this year and to ratify it by mid 2003. The issues this Treaty deals with are fundamental to food sovereignty, food security and the environment, but discussions need to continue in the political space created in the Governing Body to ensure that these resources are secured in the public domain in perpetuity.
CSOs who have been following the Treaty negotiations including: ABO (Burundi), ActionAid (UK), ANDES (Peru), Berne Declaration (Switzerland), BUKO Agro Coordination (Germany), ECONEXUS (UK), ETC Group (formerly RAFI) (Canada), Forum for Environment and Development (Germany), GEN (UK), IATP, INFC, IPBN (Peru), ITDG (now Practical Action) (UK), Institute for Cultural Affairs (Ghana), Kalvaparish (India), SEARICE (Philippines), SOLAGRAL (France) and about 200 further organisations worldwide who have endorsed this statement.
The Sixth Conference of the Parties (and 10th anniversary) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the Hague from 8-19 April.