Right to Seeds

Patenting of Plants and Exceptions to Exclusive Rights, 6 December 2021

Patenting of Plants and Exceptions to Exclusive Rights

Side Event to the WIPO Standing Committee on Patents

6 December 2021,  16:00 – 17:30 CET

Recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkBwputXH9k

Biotechnology has increased the use of patent law to protect the outcomes of plant breeding.

While the WTO TRIPS Agreement allows countries to exclude the patentability of plants and essentially biological processes to obtain them, many developing countries are granting patents on plants and plant components, such as seeds, cells, and genes. These patents can limit access to plant materials for further research and breeding and prevent farmers from saving and re-using seeds that incorporate patented materials.

European legislation has sought to strike a balance between the protection of plant-related inventions and the rights of breeders and farmers through the introduction of specific exceptions to patent rights.

Join us for a discussion of a study on European legislation and case law and lessons that can be drawn for developing countries.

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Research Paper 139, October 2021

Governing Seed for Food Production: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

By Nina Isabella Moeller

Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) are part of the foundation of agriculture and of central importance to food sovereignty. These gain an increasingly pivotal role in the context of climate crises, which are threatening predictable crop production, and the erosion of agricultural biodiversity. The main instrument for the governance of PGRFA is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Strengthening the Treaty is crucial. The Treaty establishes a binding international framework for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use. Since 2013, negotiations have been underway to enhance the functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing. Current informal consultations may pave the way for constructive negotiations at the next Governing Body meeting in May 2022.

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South Centre Study, September 2021

Patenting of Plants and Exceptions to Exclusive Rights: Lessons from European Law

Biotechnology has increased the use of patent law to protect the outcomes of plant breeding. While the TRIPS Agreement allows countries to exclude the patentability of plants and essentially biological processes to obtain them, many developing countries are granting patents on plants and plant components, such as seeds, cells, and genes. These patents can limit access to plant materials for further research and breeding and prevent farmers from saving and re-using seeds that incorporate patented materials. This study shows how European legislation has sought to strike a balance between the protection of plant-related inventions and the rights of breeders and farmers through the introduction of specific exceptions to patent rights and discusses what lessons can be drawn for developing countries.

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Submission on UPOV Circular E-20/246, February 2021

South Centre Contribution in response to UPOV Circular E-20/246

The South Centre, as an intergovernmental observer to the UPOV Council, submits this contribution on views on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers. The South Centre appreciates this opportunity to inform the possible development of guidance regarding the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers.

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Research Paper 123, November 2020

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas: One Step Forward in the Promotion of Human Rights for the Most Vulnerable  

By Maria Natalia Pacheco Rodriguez and Luis Fernando Rosales Lozada

Peasants and other people living rural areas are among the most vulnerable in the world. In 2015, an estimated of 736 million people in the world lived in extreme poverty, of which 589 million – 80 per cent – live in rural areas. Despite increasing urbanization in the last decades, almost 45 per cent of the global population still lives in areas defined as rural, and most of them are among the poorest of the world. The situation is most likely worsening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas by the supporting vote of a vast majority of countries. There are many reasons to consider the Declaration as one of the most relevant actions in the realm of human rights law taken by the United Nations in recent years. Some of them are the recognition of peasants as specific subjects of rights; the reaffirmation of existing standards tailored for the reality of people living in rural areas; and the development of international law to address existing gaps in the protection of their rights in complex subject matters such as the right to land, the right to seeds, and the right to means of production. In underscoring the importance of the Declaration for the world, this research paper narrates the process of construction of the Declaration, its contributions to international human rights law and stresses on its potential for poverty reduction and food security, in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the strategies of the UN Decade on Family Farming.

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