Indian farmers continue struggle against corporate ownership of seeds

May 14, 2019: A new article by Shalini Bhutani, a legal researcher and policy analyst based in New Delhi, India, looks at the role that international trade rules have played in expanding intellectual property (IP) rights for global seed and biotech corporations and undermining farmers’ right to collect and use seeds.

Amid debates about legal cases brought by PepsiCo against Gujarat-based farmers for alleged illegal use of the company’s ‘registered variety’ of potato plants, Bhutani brings attention to the global struggle between farmers and corporations that has played out in international forums like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and regional trade agreements like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that is currently being negotiated between 16 countries in the Asia pacific region. 

Bhutani points to rules in the WTO’s Trade the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that increased the power of global seed, pharma and biotech corporations, She also highlights the potential impacts that even worse IP provisions in the RCEP agreement could have on farmers across the region. Leaked drafts of the agreement would force countries to sign onto the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), which would increase IP rights for corporations.

Bhutani argues that India has a history of resisting these international rules. She states that the Indian government’s support for international agreements that aim to protect farmers’ rights such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas is important, but may not be enough to combat the corporate assault on farmers’ rights.

Read the full article here