Resisting free trade agreements to protect local seeds, Thailand

Thai farmers resisting free trade agreements for their food sovereignty

For years, farmers in Thailand have been resisting pressure from the United States and Europe to adopt strong intellectual property laws on seeds. In the wake of Thailand joining the WTO, the country passed a PVP Act in 1999. The Act was a partial solution to avoid succumbing to stricter laws, such as UPOV, which would severely threaten Thailand’s 25 million peasant farmers. Although less restrictive than UPOV, the 1999 law already places some restrictions on what farmers can do with varieties protected by a PVP certificate. Farmers are allowed to re-use protected seeds, but there are many requirements: they must have purchased the original seeds themselves; they can only re-sow them on their own farm, meaning the seeds cannot be shared or exchanged; and in some cases there are also quantity restrictions.
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Basic Data
NameResisting free trade agreements to protect local seeds, Thailand
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)GMOs
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Biopiracy and bio-prospection
Specific CommoditiesBiological resources
Fruits and Vegetables
Project Details and Actors
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.
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Type of PopulationRural
Start Date26/11/1999
Company Names or State EnterprisesMonsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU)
Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) from Switzerland
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAssembly 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

FTA Watch

La Via Campesina

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The final outcome is not yet clear.
Sources and Materials

(1) Plant Varieties Protection Act, B.E. 2542 (1999)
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(2) Bangkok Post news article (28.11.2012) on EU-Thai talks regarding the Free Trade agreement (FTA)
[click to view]

(3) Letter to the Chairman of International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants UPOV 1991
[click to view]

Media Links

Video on impacts of FTA on Thai farmers
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Video on Thai farmers protesting against the FTA talks
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Other Documents

Thai farmers protesting the FTA talks held in September, 2013 Source:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJOLT team
Last update17/02/2015