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L'évolution de la réglementation internationale : vers une remise en cause des semences paysannes ou du privilège de l'agriculteur


  • Laurence Boy


Most of the WTO agreements are the result of the 1986-94 Uruguay Round negotiations, signed at the Marrakesh ministerial meeting in April 1994. They include the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) which has been imposed by USA and also by the E.U. (European Union). This agreement is the first which seriously deals with plant variety rights. It provides that plant varieties must be protectable either by patents or by a sui generis system (such as the breeder’s rights provided in a UPOV Convention). Article 27 makes patent protection available to plant varieties. Nevertheless, since 1950, this model had been criticised for plants. So a new specific protection had been adopted by an UPOV agreement in 1961 (Union pour la protection des obtentions végétales or International Union for the Protection of Plant Varieties). Notwithstanding Article 13 (plant variety right), and for the purpose of safeguarding agricultural production, farmers were authorised to use the seeds for propagating purposes in their own fields or for propagating material to others farmers. Moreover, authorization by the breeder was not required either for the utilization of a new variety as an initial source of variation for the purpose of creating other news varieties, which is a marked difference by comparison to protection by patents. Although the TRIPS Agreement does not expressly mention the patent model, most LDCs (least-developed countries) and developing countries chose the patent or UPOV system by lack of own judicial tradition and finance. In 1991 the UPOV model has been changed to the disadvantage of farmers. More recently, LDCs and developing countries started to organize themselves with the aim of modifying variety plant protection inside the multilateral WTO system. It is easier for them to defend their case in this forum. Indeed, lately developing countries have been considerably more active in WTO negotiations, submitting an unprecedented number of proposals, especially in the area of agriculture. They have more confidence in WTO, where they have a better bargaining position. However, the USA and the E.U. are multiplying bilateral plant protection treaties because these enhance their leverage power so as to enable them to impose TRIPS+ agreements or UPOV 1991. Since the ministerial declarations and decisions issued in Doha in particular on drugs, developing countries try to react and to impose the Agreement on Biodiversity in WTO negotiations. The on-going erosion of genetic biodiversity has decreased the intra-specific genetic diversity of many crops. This is due to the fact that the ancient traditional varieties are being replaced by a few modern varieties with higher yield potential and wider commercialisation in urban markets. These are the developing country’s arguments. The loss of biodiversity, especially of traditional farmers varieties, will impact on the food security of the world’s poorest people. Saving seeds is a customary practice of indigenous and local communities which guarantees access to vital foodstuffs at all times. If the control of these seeds shifts into the hands of multinationals, community food security would be undermined. Food security can only be achieved if it is conceived within a framework that fosters food autonomy and keeps control of food production systems within local and indigenous communities. This article examines the conflict between developed countries and developing countries about traditional seeds.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurence Boy, 2008. "L'évolution de la réglementation internationale : vers une remise en cause des semences paysannes ou du privilège de l'agriculteur," Revue internationale de droit économique, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(3), pages 293-313.
  • Handle: RePEc:cai:riddbu:ride_223_0293

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