First Meetings of the Working Group of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, 1986
FAO, 1986: Report of the Working Group of the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, 2-3 June 1986, CPGR/87/3, October 1986.
The first time that Farmers' Rights were reported as being addressed in an FAO forum was at the First Meeting of the Working Group in Rome, 2-3 June 1986. The meeting focused on legal and technical matters in addition to discussing the feasibility of establishing an international fund for plant genetic resources. In their analysis of country reservations to the International Undertaking, the Working Group identified various categories of reservations, one of which involved plant breeders' rights (paragraph 9); and considered ways and means to reach negotiated solutions to the problem so as to achieve widest possible adherence to the International Undertaking. One solution could be to recognize the rights of plant breeders. It was in this context that Farmers' Rights were addressed for the first time (paragraph 14):
"The working Group emphasized that, in addition to the recognition of plant breeders' rights, specific mention should be made of the rights of the farmers of the countries where the materials used by the breeders originated. These materials were the result of the work of many generations and were a basic part of the national wealth. FAO should study this subject with a view to formulating a constructive solution."
On the basis of the discussion in the Working Group on how to deal with country reservations to the Undertaking and attract greater adherence, a report was produced for the Second Session of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, to be held in Rome in March 1987:
FAO, 1986: Progress Report on the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, CPGR/87/4, December 1986.
Chapter III of the Report is devoted to Farmers' Rights. It links the issue to the question of access to genetic resources, but reveals substantial uncertainties as to the understanding of the concept:
"10. Any rights which might be recognized for farmers in connection with genetic material originating in a particular country would have to be linked to the question of the collection and transfer of genetic material in that country. No such concept is to be found at this juncture in national legislation which is available to the Organization.
11. It is understood to be the practice that the collection and expedition of such genetic material is arranged in agreement with the country where such material is found in situ and that specimens of all such material collected are furnished to the government concerned and often form the basis of national collections of plant genetic resources in certain developed countries.
12. If the Commission considered that the question of 'Farmers' Rights' required further elucidation or emphasis, it could do either or both of the following:
(a) Endorse the procedure described in paragraph 11 above, in particular that specimens of plant genetic resources collected be furnished to the 'in situ government';
(b) Request that members of the Commission supply to the Secretariat all relevant information concerning the legal concept of Farmers' Rights in their country (if such concept exists) with a view to the preparation of a study on the subject if the information received provides a sufficient basis therefore."
Whereas this report indirectly questions the relevance of Farmers' Rights, the situation was to change considerably in 1987.