Second Session of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, 1987
FAO, 1987: Report of the Second Session of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, 16-20 March 1987, CL 91/14.
At its Second Session, the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources agreed to adopt practical measures to ensure wider adherence to the Undertaking (paragraph 12), and established the Contact Group (paragraph 34). In this context, a broader discussion on Farmers' Rights unfolded. Since this is the first documented discussion of Farmers' Rights in the Commission, and also this report is not easily accessible, its paragraphs on Farmers' Rights are quoted in their entirety (paragraphs 37-42):
"37. On the question of farmer' rights, delegations expressed a wide range of opinion. Most delegations which intervened on the subject stressed the importance of the concept of Farmers' Rights, holding that these rights derived from centuries of work by farmers which had resulted in the development of the variety of plant types which constituted the major source of plant genetic diversity; many of these resources were now being exploited in other countries as well and had become, in fact, part of the common heritage of mankind. They considered that Farmers' Rights were up to a point comparable with breeders' rights, which even existed in the national legislation of many countries, and it was therefore fitting that Farmers' Rights should also be recognized.
38. One delegation, whilst supporting very strongly the concept of Farmers' Rights, was of the opinion that the term did not present an adequate characterization of the concept, since it was too broad; that delegation would have preferred the term, 'rights of centre of origin countries', it suggested that the above two expressions could be combined, and that the Commission might agree to the term, 'rights of farmers in centres of origin countries'.
39. Many of the delegations that were in favour of recognizing the concept of Farmers' Rights felt that this could be done immediately, while continuing to seek a more detailed definition. On the other hand, some delegations were of the opinion that such a complex and important subject required yet further reflection before formal recognition is given to it.
40. Some delegations suggested that the procedure described in paragraph 11 of the document would be an adequate solution to the problem, that is, that the collection and exporting of genetic material originating in a particular country be arranged in agreement with that country, and specimens of material collected be furnished to the government concerned. Some also felt that the suggestion in paragraph 12 (b) of the document (that a study on the subject be prepared by the Secretariat on the basis of information provided by members of the Commission) would serve a useful purpose in developing a definition of the concept of Farmers' Rights.
41. A number of delegates considered that the concept of Farmers' Rights should be linked to the establishment of an international fund for plant genetic resources, pursuant to Article 8 of the Undertaking (see also CPGR/87/10). The establishment of such a fund would provide a means of implementing a programme of action for plant genetic resources, mainly in developing countries, thus benefiting the farmers whose work had given rise to the many plant genetic resources that now exist.
42. A few delegations considered that it would not be feasible to attribute Farmers' Rights to any particular country of origin, since there had been a constant exchange of plant genetic resources over time among the various regions of the world, and since such exchanges had been mutually beneficial."
Finally the Working Group was asked to proceed with negotiations aimed at achieving an agreed interpretation of the Undertaking, in order to attract further countries to adhere to the agreement. The Chairman was requested to invite interested parties to participate in the negotiations. Many delegates considered that these talks should also cover the question of the formal recognition of the concept of Farmers' Rights (paragraph 46), and it was proposed that the Working Group should consider Farmers' Rights in relation to plant breeders' rights, and then report to the next session of the Commission on possible mechanisms to give practical expression to these rights (paragraph 78).
The Commission also discussed the establishment of an International Fund for Plant Genetic Resources, and the topic of Farmers' Rights was brought up (paragraph 30):
"(…), it was pointed out that such a fund should serve mainly to increase support for the improved conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources in developing countries. In this way, the fund would provide a mechanism which would help to realize the Farmers' Rights to benefit directly from increased agricultural production through varietal improvement."