SEARICE, through its policy coordinator, Atty. Mario Maderazo, called for the promotion and protection of farmer seed system during the civil society meeting with United Nations rapporteur on the right to food, Dr. Hilal Elvel, on February 20 at the PRRM headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines.
In a presentation, Maderazo gave emphasis on three key policy issues that affect the right to food in the Philippines, namely: 1) state obligation to protect, promote and fulfill the right to food and the implementation of farmers’ rights, 2) innovations and incentives on plant breeding and the de facto exclusion of farmers and 3) genetically modified organisms (GMO) and food availability and access.
Maderazo highlighted the following key recommendations:
1) Immediately sign the proposed Executive Order “Providing for the Collection, Characterization, Conservation, Protection and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Appropriating Funds therefore and for Other Purposes to implement the government’s commitments on farmers rights as per our commitment to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture;
2) Promote sustainable agriculture through adoption of organic farming practices and establishment of seed banks to conserve and manage farmer-bred and traditional seed varieties for local food security;
3) Manage the ill-effects of the implementation of the Philippine Plant Variety protection Act 2002 by a) undertaking an HRIA before drafting a national PVP law or before agreeing to or introducing intellectual property provisions in trade and investment agreements in the area of agriculture, b) improving the linkages between the formal and informal seed systems and apply a differentiated approach to PVP for different users and different crops, c) ensuring that governments abide by a transparent and participatory process that includes all potentially affected stakeholders when drafting, amending or implementing PVP laws and related measures, d) informing government agencies and others involved in seed policy about their obligations concerning the right to food, e) identifying what accompanying measures may be necessary for new PVP-related laws, and implement them, including measures to mitigate and remedy any potential adverse impacts of the PVP- related laws on human rights or on the informal seed sector, f) monitoring the impact of PVP laws on the right to food, with particular attention to ways in which PVP-related laws or policies impact different segments of the population
4) Review and/or amend existing seed certification laws/standards to incorporate and allow for local (i.e. provincial or regional) mechanisms to recognize and certify farmer-developed rice varieties.
5) Review EO 430 and the Philippine Bio-safety Guidelines with the following end in mind: a) re- consider the leadership role of the DOST (Department of Science & Technology) in the National Committee on Biosafety in the Philippines (NCBP) in view of the fact that the agency’s flagship programs are centered on modern biotechnology, b) take to task the NCPB to perform its duty to raise public awareness on the issues and development of genetic engineering, as mandated in Executive Order 430 instead of processing and approving applications of field trials of genetically engineered crops like Bt Corn, Bt Eggplant and Golden Rice, c) confront issues in public participation on biosafety regulations, accountability and transparency to ensure that these concerns have primacy considerations in the review process. The Philippine Biosafety Guidelines should likewise be reviewed, in light of the recent developments in genetic engineering worldwide and the coming into force of the International Biosafety Protocol under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD).
6) Support for the passage of House Bill 37958, also known as the Right to Adequate Food Framework Act of 2014, as it will provide among others a comprehensive framework to ensure the right of every Filipino to access adequate food at all times.
Dr. Elver will be in the Philippines until February 27 for her first official mission in the country since her appointment in June 2014.
The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. Since 1979, special mechanisms have been created by the United Nations to examine specific country situations or themes from a human rights perspective. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, replaced by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, has mandated experts to study particular human rights issues. These experts constitute what are known as the United Nations human rights mechanisms or mandates, or the system of special procedures.