SEARICE calls on developing countries to reject UPOV in favor of alternative PVP systems that give farmer breeders greater autonomy
MANILA, 20 September 2023--Developing countries must develop and adopt sui generis plant variety protection systems that function outside of the framework of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) because the latter unduly restricts farmers’ rights to seeds.
This was the call made on 9 September in New Delhi, India, during the first day of the three-day regional capacity building workshop for farmers and civil society organizations under the project, "Rights-Based and Agroecological Initiatives for Sustainability and Equity in Asia, organized by SEARICE with support from Swedbio.
“Ideally, SEARICE would push for the abolition of intellectual property rights (IPRs) over life forms, including seeds,” says Normita Ignacio. “However, because this has been made impossible under the regime of the World Trade Organization (WTO), what we are focusing on now is to convince countries to adopt plant variety protection (PVP) laws that are not as obstructive of farmers’ rights as the UPOV.
According to SEARICE, UPOV's promotion of crop varietal uniformity narrows agricultural genetic diversity, when in the context of climate change, the sustainability and resilience of agriculture demands just the opposite.
UPOV particularly its 91 version grants extensive monopoly rights for holders of PVP certificates lasting for 20 to 25 years. At the same time, this law severely restricts farmers' rights to save, use, sell and exchange farm saved seeds and propagating materials.
SEARICE stated that prohibiting the saving, exchange and sale of seeds by small farmers leads to seed market concentration, biodiversity loss, harassment of farmers [https://ipcuria.eu/case?reference=C-336/02], criminal sanctions, and violations of farmers' human rights.
A human rights impact assessment of UPOV that examined the potential impact of the law in the Philippines, Peru and Kenya concluded that “UPOV 91 restrictions on the use, exchange and sale of farm-saved PVP seeds will make it harder for resource-poor farmers to access improved seeds."
At the same time, in 2021, the Supreme Court of Honduras unanimously declared its UPOV-based PVP law unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the country’s sovereignty and constitutional principles for the protection of life and human dignity, of the environment and of human rights, including farmers’ rights and the right to food, as recognized by various international treaties ratified by Honduras.
Moreover, a study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that the UPOV’s “‘one size fits all’ approach appears … problematic if the highly diverse conditions and needs of developing countries are to be addressed” and that “UPOV 91-based PVP laws were found to not advance the realization of Farmers’ Rights; rather they are effective in the opposite direction”, in other words, they undermine farmers’ rights.
SEARICE therefore advocates that developing countries that are required to adopt a PVP law should consider opting for alternative sui generis systems of PVP that allows for more flexibility.
SEARICE Executive Director Normita Ignacio says, "UPOV model PVP is not appropriate for developing economies. It is better to design alternative PVP systems, which recognize farmers’ rights to seeds."