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1996 Intervention to the FAO/CGRFA by Via Campesina


Intervention of Vía Campesina to the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, on the Revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources

Last June, in Leipzig, Vía Campesina had the opportunity to present the proposal that Farmers' Rights, the Global Plan of Action, and the terms of the International Undertaking should be implemented through a broad-based consultation process with producer's organisations, peasants, indigenous people, and farmers. The fact that our declaration was incorporated in the Leipzig conference report in paragraph 30, recording our request for a permanent and flexible consultation process that will permit the participation and adequate representation of all stakeholders, is very important to us.

Now, we wish to ask you to bring about this consultation, and we restate our position that this Commission and the FAO, as representatives of the international community, should support a consultation process at national, regional and international levels that guarantees the integral participation of farmers, as the best mechanism that governments have to develop policies for implementing the Rights of their peoples.

It is appropriate now to describe the principles on which the international community should recognize Farmers' Rights, among which should be included:

  1. Farmers' Rights have a deep historic character, have existed since humans created agriculture to serve their necessities, have remained vital through our conservation of biodiversity, and we endorse them with our constant generation of new resources and their improvement. We are the guardians of these genetic resources, which support the evolution of species. We are the inheritors of the skills and knowledge of the generations that have created this biological wealth, and for this we only ask that you recognize our Rights.
  2. Farmers' Rights include the right over resources and associated knowledge, united indivisibly, and mean the acceptance of traditional knowledge, respect for cultures and recognition that these are the basis of the creation of knowledge.
  3. The right to control, the right to decide the future of genetic resources, the rights to define the legal framework of property rights of these resources.
  4. Farmers' Rights are of an eminently collective nature and for this reason should be recognized in a different framework from that of private property.
  5. These rights should have a national application, and the Undertaking should promote legislation to this effect, respecting the sovereignty of each country, to establish local laws based on these principles.
  6. Rights to the means to conserve biodiversity and achieve food security, such as territorial rights, right to land, right to water and air.
  7. The right to participate in the definition, elaboration, and execution of policies and programmes linked to genetic resources.
  8. The right to appropriate technology as well as participation in the design and management of research programmes.
  9. The right to define the control and handling of benefits derived from the use, conservation and management of these resources.
  10. The right to use, choose, store and freely exchange genetic resources.
  11. The right to develop models of sustainable agriculture that protect biodiversity and to influence the policies that support it.

Vía Campesina rejects intellectual property rights and the patenting of any form of life or of knowledge associated with these genetic resources because it is a threat to biodiversity and results in the legalization of the expropriation of knowledge and resources by industrial companies and transnational corporations. The fact that 95% of food-related patents are concentrated in only 7 countries and a few companies serves as sufficient example. We want to alert our governments to the danger that the monopolization of knowledge by a few transnationals threatens the future of humanity.

Food security is now one of the great concerns of humanity. Eliminating the hunger of 800 million poor people in the world is a task intimately linked to the work of this Commission. Food security is only possible if there is sufficient support for agricultural biodiversity, whose conservation and sustainable use we farmers have achieved through generations of implementing Farmers' Rights. Now, ladies and gentlemen, all that remains is to recognize them.

Thank You.

FAO, Rome, December 10, 1996