The Commission on Plant Genetic Resources was established by FAO in 1983, to deal with issues related to plant genetic resources, including monitoring the operation of the international arrangements provided for in the International Undertaking (the agreement preceding the ITPGRFA).
The CGRFA started discussing Farmers' Rights in 1987, agreeing that " breeding of modern commercial plant varieties had been made possible first of all by the constant and joint efforts of the people/farmers (in the broad sense of the word) who had first domesticated wild plants and conserved and genetically improved the cultivated varieties over the millennia. Thanks were due in the second place to the scientists and professional people who, utilizing these varieties as their raw material, had applied modern techniques to achieve the giant strides made over the last 50 years in genetic improvements. In recent years some countries had incorporated the rights of the latter group into laws as 'Breeders' Rights',..."
When the ITPGRFA was negotiated in the CGRFA, UPOV member countries insisted that although farmers' rights are globally important, they are subject to national law. This simple provision allows UPOV member states to ignore farmers' rights, because national law already exists to protect breeders' rights but not farmers' rights. However, countries are free at national level to strike a balance between farmers' and breeders' rights.
In 2016 the CGRFA adopted the Voluntary Guide for National Seed Policy Formulation. The guide describes the role and importance of the informal seed sector and in which way it could be supported by seed policies.
"In the informal seed production system, farmers save and exchange their own seeds of traditional or improved varieties and in some cases undertake the same processes of variety evaluation and selection. In countries where this activity prevails, a Seed Policy may consider how to support or recognize it. This system often involves women and may be the main source of seed for food crops in some developing countries for most food crops. National seed policies may recognize the informal sector’s important role and promote support in appropriate areas such as extension, training schemes for farmers, community seed banks, germplasm conservation, and seed quality control, or even promote official recognition of some of these activities."