Muzaka (2021): Stealing the common from the goose: The emergence of Farmers' Rights and their implementation in India and Brazil
Muzaka. (2021). Stealing the common from the goose: The emergence of Farmers' Rights and their implementation in India and Brazil. Journal of Agrarian Change, 21(2), 356–376.
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The emergence of Farmers' Rights in international law is closely related to the “seed wars” at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) during the 1980s. Recognizing the plant innovations of farmers everywhere, these rights represented a countervailing measure against increasing pressures to protect commercial plant breeders' rights around the world. Nearly three decades later, the intellectual property rights of plant breeders, internationally recognized and legally binding, are stronger than ever, while Farmers' Rights are facing increasing threats from the continuing spread of industrial agriculture and biotechnologies. The present article seeks to make two contributions: first, embedding the emergence of Farmers' Rights in a historical analysis, it conceptualizes them not simply as a new category of rights, but as a specific manifestation of the conflictual entwinement of capitalism and plant genetic resources fomented in the geopolitical context of the 20th century. Second, focusing on India and Brazil, it analyses the different manner in which the state in both has played a crucial role in restricting the real freedoms of traditional farmers. While farmers' “interests” are routinely preyed upon to justify various policies, their overall effect promises to deepen the ongoing process of farmers' dispossession and separation from their basic means of production: the seed.