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Farmers' Rights to equitable benefit sharing

Farmers' Rights to equitably participate in the sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture is another measure for the implementation of Farmers' Rights suggested in Paragraph 9.2.b of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

In the South, policies on benefit sharing - if any - are provided for in various forms of legislation, most notably laws and regulations on access to biological resources, as in the Philippines. Also in legislation on the protection of biological diversity, provisions on benefit sharing are sometimes incorporated, as is the case in Burundi, Bhutan and - notably - Bangladesh. Some countries also provide for benefit-sharing arrangements in their plant varieties protection laws: India is an outstanding example in this regard. Countries with legislation on indigenous peoples' rights often have provisions on benefit sharing in these laws, which then also cover indigenous farmers, as in Peru. Some countries among them Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia and Bolivia, are in the process of developing legislation pertaining to benefit sharing. Despite all these efforts, so far there have been no examples of direct benefit sharing related to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture that have resulted from such legislation.

In the North, benefit sharing is not so much of an issue, since most farmers use improved varieties and buy their seeds and propagating material from breeding companies. However, in the Netherlands there are examples of collaboration between farmer-breeders and commercial breeding companies that has resulted in royalties for the farmers. And in Denmark, for example, there are breeding companies that have been set up as farmer-owned co-operatives, where the royalties flow back to the companies and from which the farmers can pocket the surplus.

Whereas these policies reflect an ownership approach to Farmers' Rights, measures that fall under a stewardship approach (more about the two approaches >) may not be covered by acts of legislation, sometimes not even by particular policies, as they are often carried out by NGOs. Farmers generally participate more or less in the sharing of non-monetary benefits. The most frequently mentioned non-monetary benefits were:
   access to seeds and propagating material, and related information
   participation in the definition of breeding goals
   participatory plant breeding in collaboration between farmers and scientists
   strengthening farmers' seed systems
   conservation activities, including local gene banks
   enhanced utilization of farmers' varieties, including market access.

The survey shows that - for many reasons - benefit sharing is more promising when the point of departure is the farming communities that actually contribute to the maintenance of plant genetic diversity, rather than when one seeks to identify farming communities that have developed particular varieties of plants used in commercial breeding.

Read more:
   Success stories on benefit-sharing measures
   Legislation database

Pages in this sub-section:
   Protection of traditional knowledge
   Equitable benefit sharing
   Participation in decision processes
   Rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed
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Photo: Development Fund