2nd FAO International Symposium on Agroecology:
Scaling Up Agroecology to Achieve the SDGs
Thank you Chair.
We appreciate FAO’s initiative to convene this Symposium. The very rich discussions in the last couple of days show the renewed energy and attention given to agroecology. Indeed the various presentations were very impressive and the concrete articulations of the importance of agroecology including the basic principles and key elements of agroecology are all laudable. But the question remains on how we can move from the rhetoric to concrete actions and support to agroecology. We are all aware how governments profess support to agroecology yet shy away from commitments and concrete actions. Indeed, it is a great challenge to scale up agroecology in an era where global trade dictates the kind of food systems we should have. While we all agree that there is a need to transform agricultural systems, we cannot ignore the fact that countries are under a lot of pressure to develop legislations and amend existing legislations to accommodate corporate interests, oftentimes pushed through various trade agreements. Currently, several countries in Asia are in the process of amending their legislations towards stronger IPR on agricultural innovations related to seeds, making it more restrictive for farmers to continue their traditional practice of seed exchange and effectively excluding farmers’ seeds in the market. Based on our experience working with many farming communities in at least eight countries in Asia, smallholder farmers are left with no choice but to abandon farming under these conditions.
In the last two days, we have also heard a number of times, expressed in different ways, the need to “convince farmers to transform their agricultural practices to agroecology.” We believe that farmers are not the ones who need convincing. We need to be very clear on who really needs convincing and who can bring real change and genuine transformation. Smallholder farmers can only continue their noble task of feeding the world if we go beyond lip service and make the commitment today to provide genuine support to agroecology. Thank you.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)
CSO opening statement delivered by the Executive Director of SEARICE.
Thank you Mr. Chair.
My name is Nori Ignacio and I am speaking on behalf of Civil Society Organizations that are engaged in the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources and the implementation of Farmers’ Rights.
Thank you for the opportunity to express our main expectations and concerns for this Seventh Session of the Governing Body, and re-affirm our strong commitment in contributing to the implementation of the treaty’s objective. We especially appreciate the government of Rwanda for their generosity and hospitality for hosting GB7.
We would like to congratulate the Secretary of the Treaty, Dr. Kent Nnadozie, and express our full support to his appointment.
We wish to remind the Contracting Parties of their commitment during the Sixth Session of the Governing Body to make progress on the implementation of Farmers’ Rights, and particularly acknowledge Indonesia’s and Norway’s support to the Global Consultation on Farmers’ Rights in Bali in 2016 and their submission of the Co-Chairs’ report to the Governing Body. However, we are concerned about the slow progress in the implementation of Farmers’ Rights in many countries, and the adoption of new legislations that contradict Farmers’ Rights. We regret that important points of the GB6 resolutions have not been followed-up, in particular the study on lessons learnt from the implementation of Farmers’ Rights, including policies and legislations.
Experiences from the ground show the positive impact of the implementation of Farmers’ Rights and the support of on-farm management/farmers’ seed systems, and their valuable contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Consultation on Farmers’ Rights in Bali, Indonesia emphasized the need to take action through a series of recommendations that the governing body should implement. In line with the Bali meeting, we urge the formation of a working group on Farmers’ Rights that shall include, as members, the representatives of farmers and civil society. This working group should have a clear mandate to guide countries in the implementation of Farmers’ Rights, including the revision of national legislations so these could breathe life to Farmers’ Rights. We also encourage the Treaty to initiate joint programs of action with UPOV and WIPO to revise rules that impede or limit the implementation of Farmers’ Rights.
We take note of the proposal of the Co-Chairs of the Working Group on the Multilateral System to establish a subscription system and mandatory payment for users to enhance the functioning of the multilateral system, and insist that the Parties require mandatory user payments to the BSF at a level that fully supports in-situ conservation needs. However, we recommend to suspend the expansion of the MLS and the Annex 1 of the Treaty, until there is real mandatory benefit sharing with substantial and proportionate contributions from the income of seed sales, and the subscription systems have proved to be working. There is also an urgent need to review the contractual provisions of the SMTA so that these will truly operationalize the objectives of the Treaty, and implement Farmers’ Rights. Alternative means of access of farmers, as well as a guarantee that there will be no restrictions on their rights to PGRFA, and their equitable sharing of benefits from the use of PGRFA must be in place.
We welcome the work of the Ad Hoc Technical Committee on Sustainable Use of the PGRFA, such as the toolbox on sustainable use and the educational module on Farmers’ Rights. We urge the Governing Body to hasten the progress of this work.
We appreciate the Treaty’s initiative to focus on the issue of genomics information and synthetic biology in the special side-event last Saturday. There is an urgent need for the Governing Body to take this issue seriously and discuss it as a separate item on the agenda as to prevent the use of sequence data which will undermine some of the key components of the Treaty. The rapid process of digitalization of data may jeopardize the Treaty’s mandate to regulate the access and benefit-sharing derived from the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
Thank you Mr. Chair.
CSO statement on Farmers’ Rights delivered by Sergio Alonzo of the Asociacion de Organizaciones de los Cuchumatanes (ASOCUCH).
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We support the call of the G77 to establish a working group on Farmers’ Rights.
In previous meetings of the governing body, Contracting Parties agreed through resolutions to fully implement Farmers’ Rights. Yet, to date, the previous resolutions still need action. The formation of a working group is a positive step to implement the previous decisions of the Governing Body. The Working Group on Farmers’ Rights should also be sufficiently funded so that it will be able to make headway in the implementation of Farmers’ Rights. It has already been widely acknowledged that Farmers’ Rights make a decisive contribution to the achievement of food security and the conservation, development, and sustainable use of PGRFA.
Also, to ensure that membership of representatives of farmers’ organizations, social movements and CSOs is guaranteed in the Working Group on Farmers’ Rights because farmers are the principal actors on this issue and should have a privileged voice in the working group; and to reflect the Treaty’s recognition of the right of farmers to participate in decision making-processes.
The formation of a working group is one of the recommendations arrived at by the Co-Chairs during the 2016 Global Consultation on Farmers’ Rights held in Bali, Indonesia on September 27 to 30, 2016. The Working Group should consider all recommendations from Bali, as well as from other consultations on Farmers’ Rights at global or regional levels. We urge the Governing Body to allocate sufficient resources for the operation of the Working Group in the Treaty’s budget to ensure progress on this crucial matter for the Treaty.
Additionally, pursuant to the resolutions on Farmers’ Rights during GB5 and GB6, we urge the Governing Body to direct the Secretariat to take bolder initiatives in engaging with UPOV and WIPO to persuade them to revise rules and policies that could impede or limit the implementation and realisation of Farmers’ Rights, as provided under our Treaty’s Article 9 and its preambular text.
Finally, we urge the Contracting Parties to request the Secretariat to conduct a study on the impact of new and emerging technologies, such as digital sequence information on Farmers’ Rights.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
CSO statement on Intervention on Global Information System (GLIS) delivered by Edward Hammond of the Third World Network (TWN).
We see some value to clearly organized and accessible information about seeds. For example information on identity, location, and transfer of PGRFA can be very useful in identifying cases of biopiracy.
But today, under the rubric of information, we speak of things well beyond data about where seeds are located and who is using them.
For example, at the last GB, IRRI announced online publication of hundreds of genomes of farmers’ rice varieties, with no apparent regard for Farmers’ Rights and benefit sharing implications.
I’m not going to belabor the points, made amply at the Special Event on Sunday and in this Plenary on digital sequence information. The threat to the Treaty is very real, existential even, and must be urgently addressed, and we welcome the discussion to come on the new agenda item on DSI, where we will follow closely and participate.
In the context of dematerialization, GLIS needs to be very careful with whom it works, and to ensure that its partners will uphold the Treaty. In this regard, we are very concerned.
Today’s Financial Times says that scientists frequently would rather share a toothbrush than share data they consider particularly valuable. So we must be careful whose ends the GLIS serves, because some wish to misappropriate it.
The DivSeek project, as documented in black and white in its own records made public under the law, discusses an intention to exploit alleged ambiguities and to manipulate discussion in the Treaty, for the benefit of the interests of one, or maybe a few, of its Parties.
We also have concerns in relation to any GLIS relationship with GODAN, whose approach to information may be inequitable.
Utmost attention must be paid to ensure that GLIS does not undermine the traditional knowledge and rights of farmers and indigenous peoples, including their rights to sequences and their right to control them, including locally.
Finally, we reject the suggestion that GLIS technical work on identification of accessions and interoperability of information systems will itself address the critical questions of ABS and the MLS in relation to DSI, or that the GLIS technical committee is an appropriate venue for such a policy discussion. Rather we look forward to the urgent substantive discussion on those matters under the new agenda item and a distinct process.
CSO comment on Multi-Year Programme of Work (MYPOW) delivered during the GB7 in Rwanda.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am speaking on behalf of CSO present.
We acknowledge the proposal of the Multi-Year Programme of Work prepared by the Secretary. We would also like to give our full support to the comments made by several Contracting Parties and Regions to include the review the implementation of Farmers’ Rights in every session of the Governing Body.
In our previous statements, we have emphasized the importance of this GB7 taking necessary steps to fully implement Farmers’ Rights. By including a review of the progress on the implementation of Farmers’ Rights in each session, the Governing Body will re-affirm its commitment to the importance of Article 9, not only in its own right but also in the need for its provisions to be applied to all Articles of the Treaty.
We also fully support the position of G77, GRULAC and the African Group to open a new Treaty agenda item on digital sequence information, and we urge the Governing Body to pay immediate attention to this topic.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
CSO statement on sustainable use delivered during the GB7 in Rwanda.
Thank you, Chair, for giving us the floor.
We would like to recognise and thank the Secretariat for their work over the biennium, summarised in Paper IT/GB-7/17/16, and for their efforts to include the organised views of Civil Society in the design and implementation of the Programme of Work on Sustainable Use of PGRFA. We also recognise the work of the Secretariat on facilitating information exchange and training on Farmers’ Rights. However, this has been severely constrained due to lack of regular budgetary support.
The farmers who conserve and sustainably use PGRFA and wider agricultural biodiversity as a vital part of their agroecological production are providing food to more than 70% of the world’s peoples. The PGRFA these farmers dynamically manage and maintain also underpin the productivity, resilience and, ultimately, the security of all food systems. Therefore, for everyone, and in particular for these PGRFA-sustaining farmers, Article 9 is inextricably linked to Article 6 and is central to the realisation of the goals of the Treaty. We anticipate that the 2nd FAO Agroecology Symposium in April 2018 will reinforce this approach.
Article 6.2 of the Treaty is clear about the model of production that enhances PGRFA on-farm and in situ; implicitly it is also clear that other (industrial) models of production, using fewer, and increasingly proprietary genetic resources, will erode PGRFA making it impossible for food production to adapt to new threats and pressures such as climate change.
We, therefore, would encourage Contracting Parties to continue implementing the Programme of Work and report on this to the Secretariat. We also encourage the Secretariat to seek ongoing collaboration with other bodies and, especially, the organisations of farmers who conserve and sustainably use PGRFA.
We recognise that the Ad Hoc Technical Committee on Sustainable Use of PGRFA (ACSU) has had a direct impact in stimulating activity on Article 6. It has performed effectively in embedding the Programme Work on Sustainable Use and it is now, we believe, up to the Secretariat to monitor implementation and report back to the next GB.
ACSU has given limited attention to work on Farmers’ Rights. The proposed TOR for the next biennium also does not explicitly include urgent and necessary work on Farmers’ Rights.
Therefore, in order to address the issues of Farmers’ Rights, we would advocate that regular budgetary support should be given to the proposed Ad Hoc Working Group on Farmers’ Rights, as recommended by the Co-Chairs of the Bali consultation, in order to stimulate necessary actions on the implementation of Farmers’ Rights.
This is closely related to the implementation of Article 6. Among other threats to sustainable use, any restriction on farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell PGRFA runs counter to the objectives of sustainable use and is detrimental to the Treaty. Hence, it should be consistent in national policies and seed laws, and we would like to recall the article 6.2g of the Treaty which calls for the review and, as appropriate, adjustment of breeding strategies and regulations concerning variety release and seed distribution.
Without the full implementation of Farmers’ Rights, the realisation of Article 6 will not be possible and, on both counts, the Treaty will have failed in its purpose.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
CSO intervention on Cooperation with international Instruments and Organizations.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am speaking on behalf of the CSOs present in this meeting.
Two things, Mr. Chair: First, with regards to the reporting procedure of the CGIAR to the Treaty, the Governing Body requires full reporting from the CGIAR in relation to its management of in-trust accessions. And that requirement includes COMPLETE information concerning patents and other intellectual property claims and licenses taken out by CG Centers, as well as any related policy changes or amendments made by an individual Center or the CG system as a whole. We understand the CG’s concern about proprietary business information. And while we respect the need for sound business practices this cannot supersede the right of this Governing Body to have full access to information to be assured that the policies and practices of the CG systems do not compromise the goals of the Treaty or the obligations of the Governing Body.
Second, we are especially concerned that IRRI has submitted a number of patent applications covering traits or genetic sequences of materials held in trust under Annex 1. As DivSeek told us today, in two years this technology will move ahead. A patent is for 20 years! If IRRI gets a license on DSI to a company today, it cannot guarantee how the technology could impact the legal interpretation of the license even two years from now.
We believe that this represents a policy change which must be first approved by the Governing Body and the FAO under the terms of the Treaty and the agreement with FAO established in 1994. Given this agreement, it is not for an individual Center or the CG system as a whole to decide what is a minor or a substantive policy change or what it regards as adequate consultation.
We believe that IRRI’s patent application violates its obligations to the Treaty and we ask the Governing Body to take two initiatives: First, to require disclosure of full information on IRRI’s policy change and full details on its patent application for consideration by the Governing Body. And second, to suspend any further patent application until the Governing Body gives its consent.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Treaty Cooperation with CGRFA
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am, speaking on behalf of CSOs present as observers at this session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty. We would like to express our support to the intervention made by Via Campesina, especially with regard to the principal importance of farmers’ seed systems.
The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a very important body in the governance of these vital resources – indeed all agricultural biodiversity. It is, of course, also the Mother of our Treaty. Through seven long years it facilitated the negotiations that resulted in the adoption of the Treaty by the FAO Conference in 2001.
As Parties know, one element that dominated the negotiations was having an internationally-binding instrument that would ensure the realisation of Farmers’ Rights for the peasants across all regions who provide food to more than 70% of the world’s peoples. This was in order that present and future generations would be able to benefit from the wisdom, knowledge and diversity of the PGRFA developed by these peasants over millennia, and which they continue to dynamically manage on-farm. This enables PGRFA to continue to adapt to new, and ever more pressing, challenges, such as climate change. We deeply believe that farmers’ seed systems are the backbone not only of the past but also will be for the future of world food production.
It was this recognition that these biodiversity-enhancing peasant farmers are essential for the success of the Treaty that Farmers’ Rights and their realisation became, and still are, a crucial pillar of the Treaty, relevant not only within the context of Article 9 but across all Articles of the Treaty. The full realisation of Farmers’ Rights is of paramount importance to the Treaty. The proposed Working Group, with membership including representatives of the organisations of these farmers, is essential.
We remind you of this history lest you forget the significant contribution made by the Commission then – a contribution which continues today, now across all biodiversity for food and agriculture. (This broader agricultural biodiversity is also sustained by small-scale food providers worldwide). It is the Commission that must have the oversight of the Governance of all GRFA. Its relations with the Treaty should continue to be seen in this light.
Given that perspective, we are impressed by the level of coordination and cooperation between the Secretariats of the Treaty and Commission and their commitment to work together on key processes, such as the importance of ensuring that farmers can continue to sustain agricultural biodiversity, including PGRFA, to the realisation of SDGs, as reported by the Secretary of the Commission on Monday. The realisation of the SDGs will be impossible without farmers’ seed systems protected by Farmers’ Rights.
Chair, we hope that this GB will adopt the proposed resolution but also, in relation to the above, the GB considers adding to the final paragraph the following text:
(x) Providing assistance to the Commission as necessary for the completion of the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture and the consideration of elements in any resulting Plan of Action that concerns PGRFA.