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SEARICE emphasizes inclusion of smallholder farmers and cultural communities in discussions in the 18th CGRFA

Story by: Cid Ryan Manalo

(Virtual Session - 27 September – 1 October 2021) In the recently concluded 18th session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA 18) SEARICE Executive Director Normita Ignacio highlighted the need to address the historical injustice to smallholders and cultural communities through their exclusion from discussions on genetic resources on food and agriculture (GRFA).

One of the emerging concerns on GRFA is the implications of the use of Digital Sequence Information (DSI), a key issue that has been discussed and incessantly passed back and forth by international negotiations. The debate centers on whether or not materials arising from DSI should be considered as genetic material, to which SEARICE echoed firmly its position in other negotiations, that it must be. For smallholder farmers, the debate is incredibly linked to issues on enabling fair and equitable mechanisms of benefit sharing, prevention of possible misappropriation and effects of intellectual property rights. Besides raising awareness, SEARICE called on the commission to promote and create spaces for discussion on potential benefits and adverse effects of DSI on the conservation, development, and sustainable use of GRFA through multi-stakeholder mechanisms with full and effective engagement of smallholder farmers and cultural communities.

Ignacio also noted its effects on global food and nutrition security and capacity to adapt to the challenges of the climate crisis.  “If the Commission fails to address the circumvention of national ABS laws and misappropriation of traditional knowledge linked with DSI then we will only contribute to further marginalization of those who have conserved, protected and nurtured GRFA”, she concludes.   

On the effects of national seed policies, laws and legislations to the GRFA, SEARICE explained practices that inadvertently undermine farmers seeds systems. Government procurements that exclude farmers varieties/landraces (FVLs), conditionalities imposed to access credit facilities and crop insurance, all contribute to this de facto prohibition of FVLs. Ignacio urged the commission to consider relevant articles from the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), and broaden the scope of its studies to include smallholders and CSOs working on seed programs and policies.

***The CGRFA is the only international forum that specifically deals with all components of biodiversity for food and agriculture, including plants, animals, aquatic resources, forests, micro-organisms and invertebrates. It aims to address series of sectoral and cross-sectoral issues of relevance to genetic resources for food and agriculture.

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