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UN Human Rights Council Adopts Alarming Resolution on Peasants’ Right to Seeds

Right on farm-saved propagating material as a civic right?

September 28, Geneva – The United Nations Human Rights Council responded to the long-standing demand of peasants’ organizations by passing a resolution and thereby adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.


Article 19 (d) of the Declaration provides alarmingly broad scope of peasants’ right on seed, including “right to save, use, exchange and sell their farm-saved seed or propagating material”, hence instructing states to ensure that seeds of sufficient quality and quantity are affordable and available at the suitable time for planting.


While, if adopted by the UN General Assembly, the Declaration is unlikely to have any immediate effect on the established legal frameworks in the member states, it is likely to increase the political pressure in the area of IP protection for plants, specifically in countries with large numbers of small-size farmers. Such policy-inducing effect is already anticipated in the Article 19 (8) providing that “states shall ensure that seed policies, plant variety protection and other intellectual property laws (…) respect and take into account the rights, needs and realities of peasants and other people working in rural areas”.


The Declaration was sponsored by 15 members states, including such important horticultural producers as Ecuador, Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa and was passed with 33 votes in favour, eleven abstentions and three votes against casted by Australia, Hungary and the UK.


The document that has been in the works since 2010 with the first draft produced by the Council’s Advisory Committee, will be presented for adaptation to the UN General Assembly, which is currently in session in NYC.


Picture credit: Tuan Anh Ran, unsplash.com

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