|Project Details||There are two main types of ‘intellectual property’ systems for seeds: patents and Plant Variety Protection (PVP). The US started allowing patents on plants in the 1930s, when flower breeders demanded a kind of copyright on their “creations” - they wanted to stop others from “stealing” and making money from their flowers. Plant patents are very strong rights: no one can produce, reproduce, exchange, sell or even use the patented plant without the owners’ authorisation. To use a patented seed variety, farmers must make a payment to the owner of the patent. Farmers who buy patented seeds are also obliged to agree to a set of conditions: that they will not re-use seed from their harvest for the following season, that they will not experiment with the seeds, sell them or give them to anyone else. Monsanto Company even asks farmers to spy on their neighbours and report anyone doing these things with ‘Monsanto seeds’ to the police. Today, patenting is standard for GMOs.|
Plant Variety Protection is a kind of patent developed in Europe specifically for plant breeders. It has slightly different criteria and gives less extreme powers. In 1961, European states created the Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) which harmonises rules on this through the UPOV Convention, which has been revised several times. In the early decades, UPOV gave breeders the right to prevent others from producing and using their varieties, but farmers were still free to save and re-sow seeds from protection varieties. Other breeders were also allowed to use protected materials in breeding programmes. However, with the 1991 revision of the UPOV treaty, plant variety protection became much more restrictive, Under UPOV 91, farmers are no longer allowed to re-use seeds of protected varieties except in rare cases. And when it is allowed, farmers still have to pay a royalty to the seed company to user their own farm-saved seeds.
Thailand passed the PVP act on November 26, 1999 (1).
If Thailand ratifies UPOV 1991, the period of protection of new plant breeds would further change from 12 to 25 years (2).
If Thailand ratifies UPOV 1991, the period of protection of new plant breeds would change from 12 to 25 years. (1)
According to a joint statement released by various NGOS (3), the UPOV 1991 act would impact Thai farmers in the following way (taken from the statement):
"1. It will withdraw the rights of the farmers to keep, conserve and exchange genetic materials of plants, which are natural rights of small-scale farmers, recognized in article 66 of the Thai Constitution 2007.
2. It will destroy the mechanisms for access and benefit sharing under the Plant Varieties Protection Act, 1999 which is a law conducted on the basis of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The amendment of Thai laws to make them consistent with UPOV 1991 would be seriously detrimental to the effective protection of our local plant varieties and would indirectly support biopiracy.
3. There are many studies which have reported that joining UPOV will have an impact on the utilisation of genetic materials by small scale plant breeders, community enterprise and would facilitate the increasing monopolization of the giant seed companies
4. From the studies in Thailand, it has been found that the small-scale farmers would face increased costs in buying seeds of 2-6 times higher than the present."
|Environmental justice organisations and other supporters||Assembly of the poor |
Biodiversity and Community Rights Action Thailand (Biothai)
Alternative Agriculture Network
Seed Freedom, Thailand
The Foundation for Knowledge Management and Farmer School Network of Nakhon Sawarn province
Food Security Network, Satingphra.
Network of fish folks,Phang-nga Bay.
The Network for Change in the East
La Via Campesina