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SEARICE Statement on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) at the 15th CGRFA

Rome, Italy
January 19-23, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am speaking on behalf of SEARICE and of the many Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that are here today.

We appreciate the preparation of, and generally endorse the document, CGRFA 15/15/5, especially the numerous considerations that it points out to enable national governments to draft an ABS instrument, taking into account the special role of GRFA.

However, we strongly encourage parties to focus on the inherent interlinkage between farmers’ rights and the conservation and sustainable use of GRFA. For PGRFA, the preambular text[1] of the international plant treaty leaves no room for doubt as to the crucial role of farmers in the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA. Furthermore, it is made clear in plant treaty provisions that the benefits arising from the use of multilateral system of access and benefit sharing should flow primarily to farmers in all countries, especially in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, who conserve and sustainably utilize plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

It is therefore inappropriate, on the basis of the FAO’s, the CGRFA’s, and even the UN’s Committee on Food Security’s continuous and unrelenting recognition of farmers’ crucial contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of GRFA to leave this out as a distinctive feature of GRFA. It is inadequate to relegate the crucial contributions of farmers worldwide under the general rubric of “human intervention” or “human management,” which as it stands now, may or may not include farmers, specifically smallholder farmers. As such, we strongly encourage the delegates to include the crucial role of farmers and farmers’ rights as a distinctive and salient feature of GRFA[2].

In view of this interlinkage between farmers and GRFA, allow us to identify one distinctive and crucial element of any ABS system on GRFA, which is that any ABS system or regime must clearly redound to the farmers for the conservation and sustainable use of GRFA, and not to holders of intellectual property, nor to proprietary interests. The document should identify farmers and farmers’ rights as crucial elements of any ABS system on GRFA. We thus vigorously propose the following recommendation in the Resolution:

Strongly urge governments to ensure that any ABS system or regime shall consider access requirements of farmers, and any benefit-sharing mechanism of GRFA shall ultimately redound to the farmers and result in the implementation of farmers’ rights.

In addition, the proposed wording of the resolution is not consistent with the decisions of the last Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Based on the recommendations of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, it was decided at the last COP of the CBD “to use the terminology ‘indigenous peoples and local communities’ in future decisions and secondary documents under the Convention”. To be consistent with the CBD, we therefore suggest that the wording “indigenous peoples and local communities” be included in the paragraph 4 of the current draft Resolution.

Thank you, Chair.

[1] Primarily, the preambular text of the plant treaty emphasizes the crucial role of farmers in PGRFA conservation, development and sustainable use, thus:

Acknowledging further that plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are the raw material indispensable for crop genetic improvement, whether by means of farmers’ selection, classical plant breeding or modern biotechnologies, and are essential in adapting to unpredictable environmental changes and future human needs;

Affirming that the past, present and future contributions of farmers in all regions of the world, particularly those in centers of origin and diversity, in conserving, improving and making available these resources, is the basis of farmers’ rights;

Affirming also that the rights recognized in this treaty to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material, and to participate in decision-making regarding, and in the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from, the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, are fundamental to the realization of Farmers’ Rights, as well as the promotion of farmers’ rights at national and international levels.

[2] See page 21 of the document, which generally identified “human management” and “human intervention” as a distinctive feature of GRFA.


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