Experts Focus on Farmers’ Rights
On August 11, 2003, around ten experts, scholars and officials coming from Beijing, Nanjing, Wuhan and Kunming gathered together at Sha Tan Hotel, Beijing, discussing under the title: Trade Related IPR and Farmers’ Rights, focusing on the legal difinition of “farmers’ rights”, the rights owner, related issues and strategy within China’s present legislations compared with international treaties and conversions. All the participants shared their opinions, appealing to the public for more attention, investigation on farmers’ rights, and encouraging new legislations. Prof. Dr. Zhou Lin and Dr. Zhang Lanying chaired the seminar.
According to an explanation by FAO, farmers’ rights refer to the rights arising from the past, present and future contributions of farmers in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources, particularly those in the centres of origin or diversity. A Chinese translation of the words “farmers’ rights” should reflect the explanation by focusing on the rights of those contributors, not on the (general) rights of farmers. The participants agree the words farmers rights should be translated into Chinese as contributors’ (for plant genetic resources) rights. The key point of farmers’ rights lay on the compensation for the contributors. In a broad meaning, farmers’ rights should include those contributors for animal genetic resources, etc.
The seminar had a review of the history of the origin of farmers’ rights and the development of the related international treaties and conventions, an analysis of the issues of the present international regulations of farmers’ rights and their trends, a study of the experience of the protection of farmers’ rights in China and the short-comings remained in China compared with the other countries. It points out that there are really several rules concerning farmers’ rights, but there lacks specific regulations for enforcing the rules. The exist rules are falling behind the international trend to protect farmers’ rights.
The seminar took notice of that the present international IPR system, especially the patent system have some harms towards farmers’ rights in several aspects. Some of the big companies in the developed countries keep some of the related key patens and stretch their power to the developing countries. They make big profit while refuse to compensate the contributors of the plant genetic resources. China, as a country full of plant genetic resources, should take good measures to protect her plant genetic resources. If not, the plant genetic resources could be loss or missing, and the present un-justice could cause more limitations or obstacles for China’s agriculture industry.
This seminar is meant for uniting all the people who have interests in the work of protecting farmers’ rights, cause the attention of the public, and encouraging the possible legislations in China. For this purpose, the participants appeal that: to take an investigation of the real situations of farmers’ rights in China and the plant genetic resources in China; based on this investigation, to lobby the authorities to pay more attention to the farmers’ rights and draft new legislation to protect the farmers’ rights; to participate the dialogue in the international stage and give a good influence in amending or drafting international treaties or conventions.