Drawing on interviews with Indian and Brazilian farmers’ rights activists, lawyers, agronomists and plant breeders, this article aims at better understanding how farmers’ rights are protected on paper and implemented on the ground in these two countries. Brazil and India offer important case studies because they are biologically megadiverse countries, and because small farmers represent an important segment of the rural economy. In this article, I show that India has adopted an ownership approach to farmers’ rights, while Brazil leans towards a stewardship approach. Based on an examination of the progress made in enforcing these rights, I further argue that the stewardship model adopted by Brazil is more conducive to the realization of farmers’ rights, and I explore why this is the case. Finally, I show how farmers’ rights provisions in the Brazilian and Indian legislations represent fragile gains that could be curtailed by several bills currently under discussion in the field of seed and plant variety protection.