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• 10•10•2001 •

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International Undertaking and Genetic Resource Governance

Paper presented at RSPB, Chatham House meeting 8 October 2001

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The International Undertaking and Genetic Resource Governance

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Patrick Mulvany


RSPB, Chatham House

Monday 8th October 2001

The International Undertaking and Genetic Resource Governance

Farmers should be the primary interest group that participates in all negotiations

Zimbabwean Farmers opened the International Seed Fair at CBD/COP V in Nairobi, May 2001

  • Agricultural Biodiversity and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GRFA)
  • International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources
  • Genetic Resource Governance

Agricultural Biodiversity
and GRFA

  • genetic resources, varieties, breeds and sub-species used for food and agriculture
  • diversity of species that support production - soil biota, pollinators, predators &c
  • species in the wider environment that support diverse agroecosystems - agricultural, pastoral, forest
    and aquatic ecosystems
  • Developed by Farmers

  • Agricultural Biodiversity encompasses "the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms which are necessary to sustain key functions of the agroecosystem, its structure and processes for, and in support of, food production and food security" (FAO, 1999)

  • Nairobi Final Act - revise IU
  • Leipzig Global Plan of Action on PGRFA
  • COP3
  • World Food Summit: Commitment 3
  • FAO Workshops on Agricultural Biodiversity
  • Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources
  • COPs 4,5
  • PoW on Agricultural Biodiversity with FAO

International Undertaking
on Plant Genetic Resources

  • Protect the rapidly eroding genetic resources which underpin global and local food security
  • Keep these genetic resources in the public domain and facilitate access
  • Ensure the implementation of Farmers' Rights
  • Ensure farmers receive a reasonable share of the benefits from the commercial
    use of these resources

International Undertaking
CSO evaluation criteria

  • fair - a level playing field on access rules without any threat of privatisation and biopiracy… full implementation of Farmers' Rights
  • equitable - provide reasonable benefits to poor farming communities in developing countries, commensurate with value of PGRFA, and
  • comprehensive - contain a full list
    of the crops and forages that are vital
    for food security and interdependence.

CSO Campaign on the IU

  • CSOs have kept up consistent pressure
  • Press coverage
  • Sign-on letters
  • Briefing papers
  • Web reports <>

International Undertaking
Outstanding Problems

  • the exclusion of the genetic resources covered by the IU from IPRs, keeping the resources in the public domain
  • the relationship between the IU and other international agreements, most notably the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs)
  • the food crops, forages and their
    'wild' relatives that are to be included
    in the IU

International Undertaking
Central to Governance


Perverse Policies

  • GMOs and genetic pollution
  • GURTs especially Terminator technologies
  • Promoting WTO rules that reduce local options for sustaining diversity
  • Failing to implement a substantive review of WTO/TRIPs Article 27.3(b) on life patents
  • Tolerating widespread patent abuse
    and biopiracy
  • Concentration of Corporate Power

Farmers: providing food & stewardship of the environment

Farmers are key to
the management of
the environment as well as providers of food security


Farmers: defending the global commons

Farmers have concerns about access and control to the genetic resources they require for common good tasks:
providing food and biological and ecological services

Farmers Rights

Farmers have inalienable Rights to the resources, including seeds, they have developed, nurtured and manage on behalf of humanity

Farmers' Rights are a "fundamental pre-requisite to the conservation and sustainable utilisation of agricultural biodiversity"
CSO Forum at World Food Summit, 1996

Farmers' Solutions

  • Gikingo Seed Fair

  • Nov 2001 FAO Council and Conference & WFS+5
  • WTO Ministerial + New AoA?
  • Dec 2001 WIPO Intergovernmental committee on intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore
  • April 2002 COP VI
  • Sept 2002 WSSD, Johannesburg

  • Sovereignty and free flow of GRFA?
  • Agricultural biodiversity development incompatible with private ownership?
  • Can institutions recognise imperative of local farming communities contribution?
  • Is governance of (agro)ecosystems THE issue - can this be mainstreamed?
  • Sustainable Development themes:
    Cultural, Political, Sustainable Use

Agricultural Biodiversity

  • Agricultural Biodiversity comprises the diversity of genetic resources, varieties, breeds, sub-species and species of crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and micro-organisms used for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceuticals.
  • Agricultural biodiversity results from the interaction between the environment, genetic resources and the management systems and practices used by culturally diverse peoples resulting in the different ways land and water resources are used for production.

Agricultural Biodiversity
Levels of Diversity


The Alternative Civil Society
Proposal for
Sustainable Development
(Ecuador Jan 2001)

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