Vol.14 Issue 2 (2018)
Plant Breeders’ Rights, Farmers’ Rights and Food Security: Africa’s Failure of Resolve and India’s Wobbly Leadership
Since 2000s, Africa and India severally rejected the notion that UPOV’s 1991 standard of Plant Breeders Rights (PBRs) is the only route to fulfil their obligations under Article 27 of the TRIPs Agreement. Objecting to the exclusive focus of the UPOV regime on formal plant breeders, African countries insisted on a holistic approach to plant breeders’ rights to include protection for rights of communities, farmers and their indigenous knowledge, innovation and practices. Consequently, under the African Union’s (AU) auspices, Africa proposed the Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities and Breeders, and for Regulations of Access to Biological Resources. Self-evidently, the law not only recognises the centrality of the smallholder indigenous and local community farmers on the continent’s food production, it also underscores the interconnectedness of biodiversity conservation, farmers’ rights, traditional knowledge, access and benefit sharing over genetic resources within then emergent international regimes. Nearly two decades after, Africa’s resolve has proven to be fickle. The continent has reversed itself and fully embraced the UPOV regime. At about the same time as the Model Law, India enacted the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 – an instrument consistent with the spirit of Africa’s Model Law. Both regimes take into account the role of local farmers as the backbone of agricultural innovation, food production and food security in the developing world, including Africa and India, thereby further enhancing the idea of farmers’ rights in food and agriculture law and policy. This Article juxtaposes the circumstances around Africa’s failure of resolve and India’s wobbly experience over farmers’ rights. It calls attention to farmers’ rights as a site for a missed and yet potentially redeemable opportunity for both Africa and India to advance South-South solidarity for food security.
LL.M, Ph.D (British Columbia), Full Professor at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, Faculty of Law (Common Law), University of Ottawa, Canada.