UPOV DENIES PARTICIPATION TO FARMERS’ AND CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

Geneva
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28 October 2009

ECVC is a member of Via Campesina, the biggest international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers. APBREBES was founded by organizations working on issues pertaining to plant breeding and related UPOV regulations. These organizations include the Norwegian Development Fund, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (Nepal), Southeast Asian Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE), the Berne Declaration (Switzerland), the Community Technology Development Trust (Zimbabwe), the Third World Network and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). The demand for observer status was to enable organizations working on issues related to plant variety protection and farmers’ rights to follow UPOV’s intergovernmental discussions on an equal footing with the representatives of the seed industry which have been accredited to UPOV for a long time. “The decision of the UPOV Consultative Committee is very disappointing. The decision shows that UPOV is neither inclusive nor supportive of farmers and civil society organizations that work in the interests of small and medium scale farmers and the broader public. The rejection of the accreditation application also shows that UPOV favors and prefers to only involve right-holders, private seed companies, and their representatives in its decision making processes.” - Teshome Hunduma from the Development Fund Such a rejection is also a violation of UPOV’s own rules on granting Observer status. Paragraph 2 of the rules state that: "The granting of observer status to intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations is reserved to those organizations with competence in areas of direct relevance in respect of matters governed by the UPOV Convention. […] The statutes for international non-governmental organizations will form the basis to determine that competence." The competence of APBREBES and Via Campesina is beyond question. In fact, European Coordination Via Campesina holds tremendous practical knowledge on seed issues as it represents the very people that plant and grow seeds! It is truly remarkable that UPOV asserts that other observers, such as the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) has more competence on these issues than one of the world’s biggest farmer organizations! In addition, it is widely known that member organizations of APBREBES have been active on issues such as plant breeding and intellectual property rights related to seeds and plants for many years. Mr. Jördens, the Vice-Director General of UPOV argued unacceptably for denying accreditation to both organizations on the basis of allegations and speculations. He claimed that a Member organization of APBREBES worked to stop Nepal from acceding to the UPOV Convention. Mr. Jördens also read a statement made by Via Campesina at the Governing Body of the Plant Treaty in Tunis this year which called for the suspension of intellectual property rights on seeds in connection with the current global food crisis, which Jördens claimed was against the UPOV Convention and thus unacceptable. The arguments put forward by Mr. Jördens as a basis for rejecting the accreditation of the two organizations are in themselves evidence that these organizations do work on UPOV related issues. It also shows that the UPOV Secretariat is not neutral and is against having a variety of views presented in the Organization’s discussions. “An Organization that only allows observers who are in line with the ideology of the Secretariat has no place in the 21st century. As a multilateral Organization, it should uphold principles of transparency, inclusiveness and equity and not only favor seed companies.” - Guy Kastler from ECVC The recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has presented evidence of the possible impact of plant variety protection laws on the lives of farmers and food sovereignty. In this context denying observer status to farmers’ organizations and NGOs working on farmers’ rights and on food sovereignty issues is simply indefensible. The rejection shows that UPOV is not interested in taking into account the issues that affect the most vulnerable communities, food sovereignty and biodiversity. With this attitude UPOV will not be in a state to cope with the present global challenges. We call on National governments and inter-governmental organizations cooperating with UPOV to take or support measures towards better transparency and inclusiveness of all stakeholders at UPOV.

For further information contact: 

  • Josie Riffaud Member of ECVC’s Coordination Committee Tel: +33.6.13.10.52.91 Guy Kastler Head of ECVC’s Seeds Working Group Tel: +33.6.03.94.57.21 email: guy.kastler[at]wanadoo.fr
  • François Meienberg Berne Declaration, Tel: +41 79 796 76 12 email: food[at]evb.ch Teshome Hunduma Program Coordinator, The Development Fund Mobile: +47 99 54 62 82 email: Teshome[at]utviklingsfondet.no