Peasant’s Right to Seeds and the Revision of EU Rules on Seed Marketing

Our new Research Brief The Right to Seeds in Europe (also available in French and Spanish) focuses on the steps that the European Union (EU) and the EU Member States shall take – via the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UNDROP) – to better protect the right to seeds.

Authored by Dr Christophe Golay and Dr Fulya Batur, it summarizes the main findings of our Practical Manual on the Right to Seeds in Europe published in February 2021.

Targeting representatives of EU institutions and EU Member States, peasant organizations, seed networks, academics and experts from Europe, this research brief explains how UNDROP’s article 19, which recognizes the right to seeds, shall be taken into account in the revision of EU rules on seeds.

Integrating the Right to Seeds in the Revision of EU Rules on Seed Marketing

This publication comes at a crucial moment as the EU is revising its legislation on seed marketing, scheduled to take place in 2022. Up to now, EU norms on seeds have catered to the needs of the agricultural industry, largely neglecting the rights of peasants. Peasant seed systems and traditional knowledge have not been recognized, and therefore not adequately supported.

‘EU and EU Member States shall ensure that this revision does not lead to further violations, but to a better protection of peasants’ right to seeds in Europe. This brief explains how and provides states, the EC, negotiators and civil society organizations involved in these revisions with tools to do so’ underlines Dr Christophe Golay, Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

Ensuring the Precedence of Human Rights over Other Legal Regimes

UNDROP’s article 19 provides that ‘States shall ensure that seed policies, plant variety protection and other intellectual property laws, seed marketing laws, variety registration and certification schemes respect and take into account the rights, needs and realities of peasants’.

‘In the context of the EU reform, this can be realized if the EU and EU Member States allow the marketing of peasants’ seeds within an autonomous regime. Peasant organizations should be consulted extensively during this reform process and the future assessment of economic and social impacts of the policy options should include a section on impacts on peasants’ underlines Dr Golay.

‘The EU and EU Member States should avoid creating barriers to peasants’ seed systems and should adopt a definition of seed marketing that does not include peasants’ seeds in the realm of strict variety registration or supplier requirements and seed production rules. A concrete way to implement UNDROP lies in the exclusion of peasant seed systems from the definition of seed marketing, and in the development of an appropriate and proportionate regime for the marketing of seeds from locally adapted varieties, not linked to the criteria for obtaining intellectual property rights (distinctness, uniformity and stability)’ explains Dr Fulya Batur, Founder of Kybele (Seeds & Biodiversity).

Accompanying the EU Revision

As part of our focus on the implementation of UNDROP and our project on the right to seeds in Europe, the Geneva Academy sent back in July 2021 a contribution to the European Commission (EC) in response to the EC call for feedback on its Inception Impact Assessment related to the revision of the EU seed marketing legislation.

‘We will continue to accompany this process and push for the integration of the right to seeds in this revision process via targeted expertise, key events and by continuing to facilitate exchanges between seeds networks and peasants’ organizations’ says Dr Golay.

The Geneva Academy will notably organize a series of online events with partners such as the European Coordination Via Campesina, Arche Noah, IFOAM Organics Europe, APBREBES, and Kybele. Our experts will also discuss our main findings with representatives of the EC, the European Parliament, and the EU Member States.

‘We have extensive experience in accompanying key negotiations on the rights of peasants – we played a crucial role and helped advance the UNDROP negotiations by clarifying key concepts and rights, and by providing academic inputs that helped negotiators to adopt this important Declaration’ explains Dr Golay.

‘This revision is a crucial test for the EU and EU Member States and will reveal their capacity and willingness to protect the right of peasants and live up to their human rights obligations in this context’ he adds.


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