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Implementing farmers’ rights under the FAO International Treaty on PGRFA: the need for a broad approach based on biocultural heritage

The FAO Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) seeks to protect Farmers’ Rights through equitable benefit-sharing from the use of farmers’ crop varieties. It recognises the enormous contribution that indigenous and local communities and farmers have made to the conservation and development of crop genetic resources. Yet the ability of farmers to continue this role is seriously threatened - not only by a lack of benefit-sharing, but by a lack of secure rights to land and genetic resources and policies that promote industrial agriculture and monocultures. This paper argues for a broad approach to the protection of farmers rights, which goes beyond benefit-sharing, to include protection of farmers' customary rights over genetic resources and associated landscapes, cultural values and customary laws, on which the continued conservation and improvement of crops by farmers depends. It draws on research by IIED and partners in Peru, Panama, India, China and Kenya.

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The current system of intellectual property rights is designed to promote commercial and scientific innovation. It offers little scope for protecting the knowledge rights of indigenous peoples, traditional farmers and healers, whose survival requires collective – not exclusive – access to new knowledge and innovations.

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Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge

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