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• 06•06•2009 •

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International Seed Treaty

3rd session of the Governing Body, Tunis, 1 - 5 June 2009

Negotiating global rules for Agricultural Biodiversity in support of Food Sovereignty;
Recognising Farmers' Collective Rights - enabling on-farm conservation and development

Updated 6 June 2009

3rd session of the Governing Body, 1 - 5 June


A Sizable Step Towards a Real Commitment to Farmers' Rights at the FAO?

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TUNIS , JUNE 5, 2009 -- After four days of difficult negotiations among 121 governments at a UN Food and Agricultural Organization Treaty meeting on the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture held in Tunisia , a Canadian effort to block progress was overturned. At midnight on Thursday, Brazil read an amended resolution on farmers' rights to a tired plenary, shifting the prevailing tension amongst delegates into relief and enthusiasm.  Following corridor negotiations, in which Europe, Latin America and Africa confronted Canada 's effort to derail the implementation of farmers' rights, governments agreed to:

- encourage member countries to review all measures affecting farmers' rights and remove any barriers preventing farmers from saving, exchanging or selling seed;

- involve farmers fully in national and/or regional workshops on the implementation of farmers' rights and to report back on the implementation of farmers' rights at the next meeting of the seed treaty in about 18 months;

The plenary resolution broke from conventional UN diplomatic practices by calling for the full involvement of farmers' organizations in every aspect of the Treaty.

Angola , Brazil , Ecuador , The Netherlands, Norway , and Switzerland deserve special thanks for championing farmers' critical role in the conservation and enhancement of plant genetic resources. Honduran farmer, Don Luis Pacheco, summarized the importance of the Treaty when he said: “Conserving plant genetic diversity is essential to our ability to adjust agriculture to the new threats of climate change. If we don't get the global system for seed conservation right at this meeting in Tunisia , the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen at the end of this year can't succeed.”

As Wilhelmina Pelegrina, Executive Director of  SEARICE– a civil society organization that has long lobbied for farmers' rights, who has tracked the negotiations closely, put it: “Although short on firm commitments, and dependent on financing, the resolution is a sizeable step forward in the decades-long struggle to recognize and implement farmers' rights at the FAO.“

Critical to this growing commitment to farmers' rights during this third meeting of the Governing Body were the many interventions made by representatives of farmers' organizations, such as the world's largest peasants' organization, la Via Campesina. These spokespersons not only emphasized the central role that small farmers play in the conservation of agricultural biodiversity, but also made concrete proposals about the rights and support these farmers, farm communities, indigenous peoples' organizations and pastoralists require.  Not the least of these rights are access to national and international gene bank materials and the right to financial support for on-farm biodiversity conservation.

"We did not get everything we needed at this meeting, but at least we now have the opportunity to begin reviewing legislation that has been so harmful to farmers' rights in many countries. The Canadian team here played dirty tricks and were repeatedly obstructionist during the whole process," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group. "Thankfully, the multilateral process and pressure from civil society was able to bring them back into line.”

The International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resource's emphasis on national sovereignty over the conservation of plant genetic resources and farmer's rights is also of concern. National seeds laws can, for example, prevent farmers from saving, exchanging, and selling their seeds. And as Jorge Stanley, a member of a Panamanian indigenous youth organization and spokesperson for the International Planning Committee on food sovereignty told the plenary earlier in the day:  “‘Consent' and ‘benefit sharing' for farmers who are the key custodians of our genetic crop heritage, maintaining thousands of local varieties of plants within their territories, are not respected in patent laws that allow, for example, farmers' varieties to be pirated”.

While the farmer and civil society organizations present are encouraged by this development, discussions and decisions to date fall short of the support required to make the Treaty work. The funding objective of $116 million USD is the bare minimum to sustain it and contributions remain voluntary. Civil society is determined to monitor developments closely and will return to their national homelands with plans to promote the implementation of farmers' rights. “We will be back”, said Brazilian farmer, Soniamara Maranho, of La Via Campesina. 

ETC Group, News release, June 5, 2009

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Intervention by CBDC network

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4 th June 2009

Statement on behalf of the Global Community-based Biodiversity Conservation and Development (CBDC) Network

Agenda Item 13: Implementation of Article 6, Sustainable use of PGRFA

Agenda Item 14: Implementation of Article 9, Farmers' Rights

Thank you Mr. Chairman

My Name is Teshome Hunduma from the DF, Norway

I am speaking on behalf of the global Community-based Biodiversity Conservation and Development (CBDC) Network.

I would like to thank for the chance we as a CBDC network are just given to speak on the implementation of the article 6.

The global CBDC network consists of CBDC Africa, CBDC South East and South Asia and Meso-American Participatory Plant Breeding Programme. The global CBDC Network seeks to promote and strengthen farmer-led conservation and sustainable utilization of agro-biodiversity at community level for purposes of ensuring food security and food sovereignty.

Mr. Chairman, we have seen that community-led conservation and sustainable utilization of agro-biodiversity is working and it is the best way out of the current food crises and secures local food production.

Mr. Chairman, we note with concern that the proposed funding strategy requires voluntary contributions when it is known that voluntary commitments will not materialize as was the case with the FAO Global Plan of Action of 1996.


1. The Governing Body should emphasize the implementation of article 6, which is on sustainable use of PGRFA as a priority area under the funding strategy.

2. The Community-based Biodiversity Conservation network also proposes a Global Fund for farmers which will be used for capacity building, technology transfer, information exchange, and sharing of other benefits by small-scale farmers for them to sustainably manage PGRFA.

Mr. Chairman, we also note the substantial funding for ex-situ conservation but very minimal funding for in-situ and on-farm conservation and sustainable utilization of plant genetic resources by small-scale farmers. We wish to remind delegates that ex situ conservation can not substitute the dynamism and diversity provided by on farm conservation which is the basis of agro-biodiversity to date. We therefore call upon the Governing Body to support on farm conservation of genetic resources and promotion of best practices that can be financed under the Funding Strategy.

The Treaty provides for access to PGR through the Multilateral System for CGIAR, but we note with concern that there are no frameworks and mechanisms designed for small-scale farmers to access and get back materials collected and stored under national, regional and international gene banks. We call upon the Governing Body to explore and develop separate but appropriate structures and institutional linkages with farmers' organizations which are necessary to facilitate access by farmers to genetic resources of their choice which is under the CG system.

In order to promote effective implementation of the ITPGRFA at national level, we propose that the GB should integrate farmers, farmers' organizations, civil society organizations at national, regional, and international levels as active sources of information for the proposed Compliance Committee.

We also call upon the Governing Body to establish concrete and specific mechanisms and frameworks for cooperation with small-scale farmers, farmers' organizations, civil society organizations, which are actively working on issues related to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in a sustainable manner.

Mr. Chairman, Allow me to extend my special thanks to the delegates from Ecuador speaking on behalf of GRULAC for supporting the in-situ conservation of PGRFA in particular and the implementation of the Treaty as a whole.

Thank you!!




•  The Development Fund, Norway

•  Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), Zimbabwe

•  Community Biodiversity Action Network (CBAN), Sierra Leone

•  USC- Mali, Mali

•  Institut De L'Environment Et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso

•  Kathelo Moho Association, Lesotho

•  Biodiversity Conservation Network, Zambia

•  Ethio-Organic Seed Action (EOSA), Ethiopia

•  FAIR Malawi

•  Centre for Environmental Policy & Advocacy (CEPA), Malawi

•  SEARICE, Philippines

•  Joko Learning Centre, Hug Muang Nan Network, Thailand

•  Mekong Delta Development Research Institute, Cantho University, Vietnam    

•  BUCAP Vietnam

•  BUCAP Bhutan


•  Instituto Mayor Campesino (IMCA), Colombia

•  Centro de Education y Technologia para el Desarollo del Sur (CET SUR), Chile

•  Assesoria e Servico a Projectos em Agricultura Alternativa (AS-PTA), Brazil

•  Centro de Investigacion Educacion y Desarrollo (CIED), Peru

•  Programa Campesino y Campesino, Union Nacional de Agricultores y Gandaderos (PCaC, UNAG), Nicaragua

•  Associacion National de Agricultores Pequenos (ANAP), Cuba  

•  Accion por la Biodiversidad, Argentina  

•  Instituto para la Produccion e Investigacion de la Agricultura Tropical (IPIAT), Venezuela

•  Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), Canada

•  Biodiversity Fund, The Netherlands

•  Programme for Participatory Plant Breeding, Meso-America

•  Community-based Biodiversity Management Programme, Nepal (CBM Nepal); Local Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD), Nepal

•  Community-based Biodiversity Management Programme, India (CBM lndia); GREEN Foundation, India

•  Community-based Biodiversity Management Programme, Bangladesh (CBM Bangladesh); UBINIG, Bangladesh

•  Community-based Biodiversity Management Programme, Nepal (CBM Sri Lanka); Green Movement of Sri Lanka (GMSL), Sri Lanka

•  Community-based Biodiversity Management South Asia (CBM-SA)

•  Swedish International Biodiversity Programme (Swedbio), Swedish Biodiversity Centre, Sweden

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Chaos in Carthage

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Tunis , 3 June. 2009

Little progress made during Tuesday and Wednesday; a stalemate over funding commitments led to major breaks in the plenary session whilst the Chair consulted with Contracting Parties. In the end there was agreement to hold a Contact Group, in English only and late into the night, to discuss the funding strategy without commitment to further discussions on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the chaos continued with Plenary and working groups also continuing until nearly midnight making little progress on substantial items.

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Small Change in Carthage

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Tunis , 2 June. 2009

The FAO Seed Treaty's mechanism for sharing the benefits derived from the access to plant genetic resources is a shameful failure.

The Treaty foresees that when a commercial product is derived from the use of the genetic resources that are part of the treaty, 1.1 percent of sales ought to be paid to the Treaty's Benefit Sharing Fund.

However, in the opening ceremony  of the third Governing Body session  yesterday in Carthage , Tunisia ,  a pitiful 500.000 dollars was given to projects  supposed to benefit farmers, recognized by the global community as the main producers and conservers of the diversity of all the worlds' food.  Moreover, the bulk of these funds went to governmental and non-governmental institutes.

As Ditdit Pelegrina, from SEARICE in the Philippines noted, “farmers were largely absent from the 11 approved projects.  Clearly, the money is not going towards on-farm conservation, as the treaty often claims, and where the diversity and farmers really are but rather to national research institutions.”  

“It is an insult to the treaty to claim that this money constitutes access and benefit sharing that is supposed to go the backbone of our food system,” protested Guy Kastler, a peasant representative from La Via Campesina.  The money awarded yesterday was in fact not through the Treaty mechanism but through voluntary donations made by individual countries. This is not  sustainable, especially when the treaty cannot guarantee the bare minimum to keep the treaty alive.

One more time, it is the rich countries, Canada and Europe that are blocking the contributions to the treaty that make up the Treaty's budget. The last Plant Treaty meeting in 2007 was already wasted almost entirely arguing over the 4,9 million needed to keep on the lights in the Treaty Secretariat. It is time to move beyond self-interested bickering to commit serious resources to a Treaty that, in this age of climate, food and economic crises, needs urgent implementation, beginning with funds for the farmers, indigenous peoples and pastoralists at the heart of plant genetic resource conservation.

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G77 demands funding by OECD countries

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Tunis , 2 June. 2009

Heated exchanges Monday afternoon between delegations demanding that all Contracting Parties adhere to the letter and spirit of the Treaty - especially as described in article 18.2 - and commit funds for the work of the Treaty, as required. If none are forthcoming, access to PGRFA from the South will be restricted, they threatened.

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Civil Society Press Release

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Tunis , 1 June. 2009



En route to the twin summits at the end of the year— the food crisis summit in Rome in November, and the climate crisis summit to be held in Copenhagen in December— the meeting of the FAO Seed Treaty (IT PGRFA) is at the critical nexus of the international community's ability to respond to the food and climate crises.

“If we don't safeguard our seed diversity and implement peasants' rights, then the global agricultural system won't be able to respond to rapidly changing climatic conditions,” said Adam Kuleij, Massai pastoralist from Tanzania .

Addressing the fundamentals of on-farm conservation is essential to the food supply. Meanwhile, the elephant in the room is that member states have spent years squabbling over the barebones 116 million dollars in budget proposed from 2007 needed to fulfill the basic goals of the treaty.

The International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty (IPC) facilitated a meeting of people from five continents including 25 countries, representing peasant, pastoralist, and indigenous organizations, to analyze the status and role of the treaty.

Dr. Malaku Worede of Ethiopia , the founder of Africa 's most important gene bank and former chair of the U.N. Commission that led to the Treaty emphasized the key role of small farmers in conserving the genetic diversity of seeds:

“Ex-situ gene banks have an important role to play. But we've been trying to save seed in gene banks for the last half century, with more failures than successes. To ensure a sustained supply of useful germplasm and a more dynamic system of keeping diversity alive, we must support farmers in maintaining seed in their field. If we lose this living diversity Africa and the world will not be able to adjust to climate change,” Worede said.

After two days debate the representatives are demanding the following:

•  In light of the food emergency there must be a suspension of all intellectual property rights and other regulations that prevent farmers from saving and exchanging non-GMO seed.

•  There must be a major financial commitment to save seed in the field, for the conservation of genetic diversity in the field, and to prevent and monitor biopiracy.

•  We must bring an end to the monopoly practices of multinational seed companies who are controlling seeds, the first link in the food chain.

•  Governments cannot act alone, they must involve farmers in decision making every step of the way, and governments must implement the treaty's decision on Farmers' Rights.

“We, are giving states one last chance to implement collective farmers' rights, and on-farm conservation of seeds. If not we'll no longer consider the treaty a relevant body for implementing food sovereignty.” said Soniamara Maranho of the Via Campesina Brazil .

Contact: Guy Kastler, La Via Campesina and Pat Mooney, ETC Group +1(613) 291-9793; Luca Bianchi, IPC +(216) 25372536

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Civil Society Organisations challenge the Governing Body to implement legally-binding collectiveFarmers' Rights and urgently remove constraints to local innovation

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Tunis , 1 June 2009

Presented by Alberto Gomez, International Coordination Committee, La Via Campesina.

Statement, facilitated through the IPC (International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty), by social movements, including small scale farmers' and Indigenous Peoples' and other civil society organizations present in Tunis at the third session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Plant Resources for Food and Agriculture,1 - 5 June 2009.

The women and men who practice small-scale biodiverse farming not only create and conserve the world's crop genetic diversity but in the context of the food, climate, energy and economic crises, they provide the only solution for feeding the world's hungry. And the resilience and adaptabilty of these systems is our best defence against climate chaos. It is therefore urgent to implement legally-binding collective Farmers' Rights. Realising these rights will underpin the dynamic conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and will ensure equitable sharing of benefits – these are the principal goals of this Treaty.

The monopoly privileges conferred on legal persons through intellectual property laws on seeds undermine farmers' collective rights to sow, save, exchange and sell farm-grown seeds and these have facilitated concentration of ownership over seeds by a handful of multinational seed companies. These contribute to the destruction of cultural, spiritual and biological diversity and prevent the majority of farmers from conserving and sustainably using the millions of varieties of food crops they develop and adapt to changing needs and local agro-ecosystems.

The ex situ gene banks and cultivated biodiversity are threatened in their very homelands and in their diversification, by contamination from patented GMOs, wars, and the lack of public finance necessary for the conservation of cultivated biodiversity.

We therefore call on the Governing Body of the Treaty at its third session here in Tunis to implement the following proposals:

1.   Ensure all parties to the Treaty permit the collective rights of small-scale farmers, Indigenous Peoples and pastoralists:

•  to conserve, use, exchange and sell any non-GM variety of farm-grown seeds ;

•  protect their seeds from biopiracy and contamination by patented genes, including GMOs; and

•  reocognise and protect the farming social systems and cultures that conserve these seeds and associated traditional knowledge.

2. Call a "state of emergency", in the context of the food, climate, energy and economic crises, in which all constraints to plant breeding - especially intellectual property over plant varieties and germplasm - must be immediately suspended on the basis of ordre publique for, at least the duration of the crisis, because exclusive monopolies over plant varieties and germplasm limit diversity and farmers' ability to adapt seeds.

3. Commit to a biennial report on “The State of the World's Farmers and Farmers' Rights” prepared by small scale farmers' organisations, Indigenous Peoples and pastoralists, under an FAO or Treaty budget line for presentation and debate at each meeting of the Governing Body. The report should include the results and analysis of a questionnaire to governments on the national implementation of Farmers' Rights.

4.  Create working groups of the Treaty comprising governments and civil society organisations including small-scale farmers organisations, Indigenous Peoples and pastoralists that will:

•  oversee the conformity of practices with the rules of the Treaty by those who participate in the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing (MLS), and, in particular, to report to the Governing Body on instances of biopiracy affecting both species under Annex I of the Treaty and a wider range of species of importance to food and agriculture ;

•  define a framework for on-farm/ in situ conservation of PGRFA, including in community controlled seed banks , that protects and develops farmer-led innovation systems, including participatory plant breeding, and to secure financing for implementation;

•  and, also with the CGIAR and the GCDT, define the role and effectiveness of ex situ gene banks and a code of practice for unrestricted access and use by, and benefit sharing with, small-scale farmers,Indigenous Peoples and pastoralists, who are the originators of the stored seeds. Any funding to ex situ conservation should be dependent on and linked to prior funding for on-farm/ in situ conservation on small farms.

If the Governing Body of the Treaty is not able to meet these demands, we, representatives of small scale food producers including farmers, Indigenous Peoples and pastoralists and support NGOs call upon a coalition of States, who are willing, to implement these rights immediately and to work with us for a separate Protocol on Farmers'/Peasants' Rights that will include these measures under another governing body in FAO (e.g. CGRFA, CFS) or the Human Rights Council.


Seeds in this context include all consumable and reproductive materials including grains, roots, grafts and cuttings of plants.

As defined in the Leipzig GPA and by small-scale farmers movements.

Community controlled seed banks include the full range from family and household -based collections that are exchanged within the community up to and including a formal community facility.

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The Governing Body has to galvanise action to save the world's Agricultural Biodiversity

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As intended by architects of the Treaty, its principal outcomes should be to staunch the haemorrhage of the on-farm diversity of seeds and related agricultural biodiversity and to ensure that this diversity is freely available to future generations of farmers who defend diversity.


The Treaty recognises that this diversity has been developed in fields and gardens by farmers, gardeners, indigenous peoples and other food providers, over millennia, and that they continue to manage and develop it. Without their unrestricted participation in these activities, agricultural biodiversity, enhanced through the free exchange of seeds and other planting material between growers, communities, countries and continents that produced a myriad of varieties suited to every social, environmental and food need, will continue to be eroded.


This participation will not be achieved without international recognition of farmers' inalienable rights over agricultural biodiversity and support for their continued production of food crops in diverse environments. Achieving this should be the key task for the Governing Body of the Treaty.


The translation of farmers' inalienable rights over agricultural biodiversity to the limited interpretation, within national law, of “Farmers' Rights” – as expressed in Article 9 – should not preclude the Governing Body from deciding on actions related to other Articles that also impinge on the rights of farmers in relation to the realisation of the purposes of the Treaty: for example:


•  Conservation and Sustainable Use (Articles 5 and 6);

•  The proscription of monopoly privileges being granted on any farmers' varieties (Article 12.3.d);

•  Sharing of benefits derived from the commercial use of seeds for food (MLS); and the

•  Funding mechanism – that should primarily support on-farm conservation (Article 18).


Realisation of their inalienable rights over agricultural biodiversity will require recognition of the collective rights of farmers and other food providers and support for their activities.


These collective rights encompass a broader range of issues than simply access to and use of seeds. La Via Campesina, in 1996, articulated these eloquently at the fourth extraordinary meeting of the CGRFA.


The Governing Body should, therefore, through legally-binding decisions about the implementation of several Articles in the Treaty, find ways of involving and supporting small-scale farmers and other food providers and their organisations, and promoting the diversity that is managed by them.


To do this, the Governing Body will need to find ways, including through influencing the implementation of other instruments such as those of the CBD, of recognising farmers' collective rights to, inter alia : agricultural biodiversity, its sustainable use and the benefits derived from this; territory and land; water; local markets; services including research; as well as rights to organise and to be decisively involved in relevant decision making processes.


It is 13 years since the agreement of the Leipzig Global Plan of Action for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. This shifted the priority of activities from ex situ to in situ and on-farm conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA as the mechanism for sustaining agricultural biodiversity related to crop plants. There was little or no progress in implementing the GPA, pending the agreement of the Treaty. The Treaty is now 5 years old – time to start growing up and doing all the things needed to save agricultural biodiversity (on-farm, of course).

Patrick Mulvany


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


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The increase in frequency and seriousness of food, economic and energy crises and also climate

change is forcing small scale farmers worldwide to adapt their cropping systems to the rapid

changes taking place in their environment. Dynamic conservation and the sustainable use of

cultivated biodiversity, agricultural systems, social systems and associated traditional knowledge are

at the heart of this adaptation on which the food of future generations depends. Many local

initiatives in Europe are already developing a variety of dynamic conservation practices linked to the

sustainable use, development and valorization of cultivated biodiversity.

The undersigned organizations from different European countries:

1) Acknowledge the importance of implementing the International Treaty on Plant Genetic

Resources for Food and Agriculture negotiated under the FAO framework (organization of

the United Nations), which recognizes the invaluable past, present and future contribution of

farmers to the conservation and sustainable use of cultivated biodiversity

2) Recall that the European Union and its Member States ratified it

3) Note that despite the numerous political and scientific declarations on the necessity to

develop on farm conservation:

3.1. The Member States and the European Commission do not recognize the local

initiatives of seed networks, peasant farmer and civil society organizations. In addition,

their laws and rules, which are only adapted to large-scale distribution, industrial

agriculture and its seeds, are blocking these initiatives. The national governments and the

European Commission forget that there exists in Europe a non-industrial seed system

referred to as „informal”. Hence, they do not respect the signature of article 6 of the

Treaty on the sustainable use of cultivated biodiversity, the application of which is


3.2. The current European directive on „conservation varieties” will only allow the

cultivation of a limited number of fixed local varieties based on one old phenotype. The

requirements for the registration of these varieties have the same logic as the official

catalogue. They exclude all intra-varietal diversity and variability, which are necessary

conditions for the renewal and sustainable use of biodiversity and the maintenance of a

more economic and autonomous agriculture.

3.3. The current legislation on seeds for organic farming enhances the erosion of

cultivated biodiversity.

3.4. The collective rights of farmers defined by article 9 of the Treaty, whose application is

entrusted to national governments, are still not recognized in European countries. We

observe that these rights do not prevent ‘Farmer's Privilege' which allows farmers to

resow a part of their harvest as payment for breeding.

4) Demand from the European Union and the Member States to:

4.1. Recognize in their Directives, rules and laws farmers' rights to conserve, use,

exchange and market seeds originating from past, present and future peasant

farmer breeding, to protect their traditional knowledge and to participate to

national decisions on the management of agricultural biodiversity,

4.2. Facilitate public information and farmers' access to resources in public collections

and ensure protection against contamination from genetic manipulation,

4.3. Apply fully article 6 of the Treaty by politically and legally acknowledging local

initiatives and by applying the following measures:

a) Elaborate agricultural policies encouraging the introduction and the maintenance

of diversified agricultural systems that foster the sustainable use of agricultural


b) Reinforce and conserve cultivated biodiversity by maximizing intra- an interspecific

variation for the benefit of farmers, in particular those, who create and

use their own varieties and/or apply ecologic principles in the maintenance of

soil fertility and fight against diseases, weeds and harmful organisms,

c) Promote participatory research and breeding for farmers' varieties specifically

adapted to different social, economic and ecologic conditions

4.4. Make public each country's complete report they will present at the meeting of the

Treaty's Governing Body in Tunisia in June 2009 on the sustainable development of

biodiversity and on the respect of farmers' rights in Europe .

Organizations that have promoted the letter:

1. Heritage Seed Library ( England / United Kingdom )

2. IG für gentechnikfreie Saatgutarbeitt (Germany)

3. Protect the future (Hungary)

4. Red de Semillas “ Resembrando e Intercambiando” (Spain)

5. Réseau des semences paysannes (France)

6. Rete Semi Rurali ( Italy )

Organizations that have signed the letter are listed below:

7. Friends of the Earth Europe

8. GM Free Cymru ( Wales , UK )

9. Syndicat d'Agriculture Biodynamique (France)

10. Confédération Paysanne (France)

11. Amis de la Terre France (France)

12. Nature & Progrès (France)

13. Fédération Nationale de l'Agriculture Biologique (France)

14. Union Nationale de l'Apiculture Française (France)

15. BEDE (France)

16. Semeurs de biodiversité Hérault (France)

17. AMAP Ile de France (France)

18. Erable 31 (France)

19. Université Nomade (France)

20. Pomologen-Verein (Germany)

21. Linda-Freundeskreis (Germany)

22. ABDP – Assoziation biologisch-dynamischer Pflanzenzüchter e.V. (Germany)

23. Arche Noah (Germany)

24. Bingenheimer Saatgut AG – Ökologische Saaten (Germany)

25. Dreschflegel e.V. (Germany)

26. Kultursaat e.V. (Germany)

27. ReinSaat KG (Germany)

28. Sativa Rheinau AG – Ökologisches Pflanz- und Saatgut (Germany)

29. VEN – Verein zur Erhaltung der Nutzpflanzenvielfalt e.V (Germany)

30. GM free Ireland Network ( Ireland )

31. Verdi Ambiente e Societa- VAS (Italy)

32. Centro Internazionale Crocevia (Italy)

33. Consorzio della Quarantina (Italy)

34. Civiltà Contadina (Italy)

35. Associazione Veneta Produttori Biologici-A.Ve.Pro.BI. (Italy)

36. Archeologia Arborea (Italy)

37. Associazione Rurale Italiana - ARI (Italy)

38. Coordinamento Toscano Produttori Biologici-CTPB (Italy)

39. Associazione Italiana Agricoltura Biologica-AIAB (Italy)

40. Associazione per la Solidarietà della Campagna Italiana-ASCI (Italy)

41. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms-WWOOF- Italia ( Italy )

42. Fondazione Diritti Genetici-FDG (Italy)

43. The Development Fund (Norway)

44. Asociación "Llavors d'ací, per a la promoció i la conservació de la biodiversitat agrària del País Valencià" (Spain)

45. Red Andaluza de Semillas “Cultivando Biodiversidad” (Spain)

46. Observatorio de la Biodiversidad Agrícola (Spain)

47. Ecologistas en Acción (Spain)

48. Slow Food Terres de Lleida (Spain)

49. Assemblea Pagesa de Catalunya (Spain)

50. Red de Semillas de Cantabria (Spain)

51. Coordinadora de Agricultura Ecológica de Cantabria (Spain)

52. Associació de Productors d'Agricultura Ecológica de Menorca (Spain)

53. Col·lectiu ´Transgènics Fora´ (Spain)

54. Cooperativa “Impelte” (Spain)

55. Red de Hortelanos de Sobrarbe-Un Paso Atrás (Spain)

56. Cordinadora de Accines de Agricoltures y Ganaderos (COAG) (Spain)

57. La Alegría de la Huerta Sociedad Cooperativa (Spain)

58. Federación Andaluza de Consumidores y Productores Ecológicos (Spain)

59. Asociación de consumidores y productores de agricultura ecológica "La Borraja" (Spain)

60. Asociación de Amigos de la Naturaleza de Alozaina (Spain)

61. Grupo Soberanía Alimentaria y Genero (Spain)

62. Red Canaria de Semillas (Spain)

63. Entrepueblos (Spain)

64. Asociación Nueva Cultura Rural (Spain)

65. Asociación Medioambiental El Observatorio (Spain)

66. Associació de Varietats Locals-Illes Balears (Spain)

67. Asociación Albar (Spain)

68. Ecologistas en Acción de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)

69. Ecologistas en Acción de Ciudad Real (Spain)

70. Triticatum (Spain)

71. Extremadura Sana (Spain)

72. Les Refardes – Gaiadea (Spain)

73. COAG-Canarias (Spain)

74. Asociación de Consumo Ético La Talega (Spain)

75. Centro de conservación de la Agrobiodiversidad y la Etnobotánica de las Sierras de Francia y Béjar (Spain)

76. Asociación para el Desarrollo y Estudio de la Agroecología (Spain)

77. Agrícola Pueblos Blancos S.C.A. (Spain)

78. La Verde S.C.A. (Spain)

79. Euskal Herriko Nekazarien Elkartasuna (EHNE) (Spain)

80. Asociación Cultura Permanente (Spain)

81. Muntanyes de la Valldigna (Spain)

82. Amigos de la Tierra España (Spain)

83. Asociación Vida Sana (Spain)

84. L'Era - Espais de Recursos Agroecològics (projecte Esporus) (Spain)

85. Asociación Rural Paulo Freire Sierra de Cádiz (Spain)

86. Asociación Medioambiental MEJORANA (Spain)

87. Red de Semillas de Euskadi- Euskal Herriko Hazien Sarea (Spain)

88. Grupo de consumo sostenible del Aljarafe (Spain)

89. Ecologistas en Accion-Ciudad Real (Spain)

90. Plataforma Mallorca Lliure de Transgènics (Spain)

91. Serranía Ecológica S.C.A. (Spain)

92. Plataforma Rural Alianzas por un Mundo Rural Vivo (Spain)

93. Veterinarios Sin Fronteras (Spain)

94. Plataforma Andalucía Libre de Transgénicos (Spain)

95. Asociación Enginyeria Sense Fronteres (Catalunya) (Spain)

96. Asociación RAMA (Spain)

97. A.D.V. Ecològica Gent del Camp (Spain)

98. L'Almàixera (Spain)

99. Banc de llavors de la provincia de Tarragona (Spain)

100. Cooperativa de consumo ecològico La Pera (Spain)

101. Plataforma Som Lo Que Sembrem (Spain)

102. Grupo del Decrecimiento de Tarragona (Spain)

103. Mesa Andaluza de la Producción Ecológica (Spain)

104. Grupo de Permacultura de Tarragona (Spain)

105. Sociedad Española de Agricultura Ecológica (Spain)

106. GRAIN (Spain)

107. ProSpecieRara (Switzerland)

108. Practical Action –ITDG- ( United Kingdom )

109. Sunseed trust/Sunseed Desert Technology-SDT- ( United Kingdom )

110. Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland FoE EWNI ( England Wales and Northern Ireland )

111. Sunseed Trust/Sunseed Desert Technology ( United Kingdom )

112. Scottish Crofting Federation ( United Kingdom )

113. The Soil Association ( United Kingdom )

114. The Agrarian Renaissance ( United Kingdom )

115. GM Freeze ( UK )

116. CSGR/Law University of Warwick (United Kingdom)

117. ECONEXUS ( United Kingdom )

118. FARM ( United Kingdom )

119. Friends of the Earth EWNI ( England , Wales and Northern Ireland )

120. GM Watch, ( United Kingdom )

121. Soy Alliance ( United Kingdom )

122. LandShare ( United Kingdom )


123. Red de Coordinación en Biodiversidad (Costa Rica)

124. Grupo Semillas (Colombia)

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