April 3 2013. Source: African Center for Biodiversity
Civil society organisations from the South African Development Community (SADC) region, and around the world have condemned the SADC draft Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (Plant Breeders’ Rights) as spelling disaster for small farmers and food security in the region. These groups, representing millions of farmers in Africa and around the world have submitted their concerns to the SADC Secretariat. They are calling for the rejection of the Protocol and urgent consultations with farmers, farmer movements and civil society before it’s too late.
According to the groups, the Protocol is inflexible, restrictive and imposes a “one-size-fits-all” plant variety protection (PVP) system on all SADC countries irrespective of the nature of agricultural systems, social and economic development. It is modelled after the 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991), an instrument which was developed by industrialized countries to address their own needs. UPOV 1991 grants extremely strong intellectual property right protection to plant breeders, and disallows farmers from continuing their customary practices of freely using, exchanging and selling farm-saved seeds.
According to Moses Shaha, regional chairman for the East and Southern African small-scale Farmers’ Forum
(ESAFF): “The proposed legislation gives big-business breeders significant rights, but in doing so,
disregards and marginalizes small farmers and their plant varieties. It fails to recognize that
small-scale farmers and their customary practices of freely exchanging and re-using seed for multiple
purposes, constitute the backbone of SADC’s agricultural farming systems.”