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Secure farmers’ collective rights to their own seeds

19 October 2017

The sustainable use of plant genetic resources and upholding farmers’ rights should take precedence over intellectual property rights. Farmers should not be criminalized for reusing their own seeds.

ECVC urges Spanish and European authorities to secure farmers' collective rights to save, use, exchange and sell their own seeds   ****   Brussels, October 19, 2017 - A few days away from the meeting of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants* (UPOV) in Geneva, outrage flares in light of the prison sentences and excessive fines given to Spanish farmers, guilty only of having used seeds from their own harvest. The current UPOV Convention not only criminalizes and sanctions producers who plant or exchange their own seeds, it also prevents farmers from having access to freely reproducible seeds, thus undermining food security both in Europe and the world.     The sustainable use of plant genetic resources and upholding farmers’ rights should take precedence over intellectual property rights. Farmers should not be criminalized for reusing their own seeds.     On the ground, «informal» peasant seed systems and the « formal » industrial system operate very differently. The laws regulating the formal industrial system, however, infringe the collective rights of farmers guaranteed by informal peasant systems.     José Manuel Benitez Castaño, farmer and member of COAG (Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos), asserts that «in Spain, replanting seeds for cereal and legume crops is a deeply-rooted tradition in many small rain-fed farms with low productivity. Due to the weather, our production conditions limit the productive potential of the improved industrial varieties ».     Guy Kastler, representative of the Confederation Paysanne, French trade union member of ECVC, condemns the fact that small farmers are being forced to use plant varieties registered in the official catalogue, most of which are covered by plant-variety rights (PVR) under the UPOV Agreement. He adds: « We believe that when we purchase certified seeds, the fee is paid for then. Nothing justifies why we should keep paying a fee every time we multiply our own seeds in the farm or when exchanging seeds as part of the mutual support between farmers. »     The preservation, renewal and sustainable use of plant genetic resources is based primarily on the rights farmers have to save, use, exchange and sell their own seeds. Any restriction of these rights is contrary to food security and the goals set forth by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).     The States that have signed the Treaty should include in their national legislations the prohibition to infringe these peasants’ rights.     All across Europe, we witness increasing violations on behalf of the seed industry against the rights of small farmers to save, use, exchange and sell their own seeds. If by this, the Industry wants to test the resilience of peasants, this will only reinforce it! ECVC calls on peasants throughout Europe to unite against these aggressions and defend their rights.       Contacts:   Antonio Onorati – ECVC Coordination Committee : +39 3408 2194 56 – FR, ES, IT, EN   Guy Kastler - Confédération Paysanne – ECVC : +33 6 03 94 57 21 – FR   Cristina Sancho Esteban – ECVC Coordination Committee : +34 645 310 397 – ES       Note to editors: * UPOV is an intergovernmental organization based in Geneva (Switzerland). It was created with the adoption in 1961 of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The commercial varieties protected under the UPOV system are tailored to the needs of the global market, which means that products are standardized. This system also standardizes the conditions under which they’re cultivated, such as the use of technological commercial inputs, mechanization and, often, irrigation. The commercial varieties of the UPOV system were selected freely from the fields, using the varieties cultivated by millions of farmers across the world. These represent almost all of the plant genetic resources available in germplasm banks.