13:00, WEDS 17 MAY 2000


The COP has just been addressed by Third World Network (TWN) on behalf of many NGOs including ITDG.
The NGOs adopted ITDG's position statement on the International Undertaking and presented this is in a two-part intervention, to Working Group 2's Access discussions, covering:

  • incompatibility of the current WTO/TRIPs agreement with the CBD and the need for TRIPs article 27.3(b) to be renegotiated; and
  • the urgency for a conclusion of the International Undertaking negotiations by FAO in harmony with the CBD.

TWN said: "...
International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources
For the last five years there have been negotiations to try to secure an international agreement on access to and use of the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, developed in farmers' fields and stored in national, regional and international genebanks. The Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, housed within the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, is charged with leading these negotiations. The aim is to secure an International Undertaking which is adapted to be in harmony with the CBD.
During these five years the mandate and scope of these negotiations, as agreed by the FAO and supported by COP decisions (II/15, III/11, IV/6) has been constantly questioned by some countries. The conflict is largely between those who wish to see farmers and other stakeholders have free multilateral rights of access to, and benefit sharing from, genetic resources they have developed and use to maintain food security; and those who support bilateral arrangements and the encroachment of intellectual property rights and law into these areas. The NGOs urge the COP to call for agreement this year to an International Undertaking. A strong message of encouragement should be sent to the FAO to achieve this.
An International Undertaking, fully in line with the CBD would ensure:

  • Multilateral access to these genetic resources for current and future generations, outlawing Intellectual Property claims on any of the material or knowledge in the system;
  • Benefits are linked to the end use of the resources (their contribution to seeds and other propagating material for food security) and that the benefits to farmers are commensurate with their historical and present contribution to developing the resources underpinning food security
  • Farmers' Rights to save, use, exchange and sell seeds and other propagating material and, in the case of seeds and other material restricted by national law, the right to sell them in their customary manner and markets;
  • Committed financing for the IU and for associated programmes

We urge the Parties to call for such a pro-farmer IU to be brought before the next COP as a legally binding instrument."
Immediately after this intervention, Brazil retracted their earlier anti-IU statement, clarifying that they were also concerned with having an IU that would cover Plant Genetic Resources for food security, but that the IU should not cover benefits related to other end uses, e.g. pharmaceutical, industrial. A small positive step in the direction of a clear message from COP 5 to FAO.

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  Farmers' Voices, Farmers' Rights
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