China’s first participatory plant breeding (PPB) programme was initiated in Guangxi, southwest China. It aims to address declining genetic diversity in farmers’ fields and to improve livelihoods. As well as developing improved crop varieties for farmers, the programme is facilitating the negotiation of local agreements by which farming communities can benefit from sharing their genetic resources and related traditional knowledge with breeding institutes. This work has strengthened the legitimacy of farmers’ rights to benefitsharing, and is feeding into ongoing policy discussions on how to implement the ABS provisions of the Convention on Biodiversity and the Nagoya Protocol. In a context where farmers face significant legal barriers to securing their rights and benefits, this experience shows how a local level experimental project, involving formal breeding institutes, can start to change attitudes, practices and policy debates, paving the way for changes in policy and law.
This article appears in Participatory Learning and Action 65 on Biodiversity and culture: exploring community protocols, rights and consent.
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