‘Arusha Protocol ratification to impact negatively on food security’

THE ratification of the Arusha Protocol that provides strong intellectual property rights to seed breeders for the protection of new varieties of plants will have negative impacts on food security, a senior United Nations (UN) advisor has observed.
Although, the African Regional Intellectual Property Rights Organisation (ARIPO), of which Zambia is a member, adopted the Arusha Protocol in 2015 but it has not yet ratified.
The Arusha Protocol intends to harmonise regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights to promote industrial seed without involving farmers whose main source of seeds is from markets and farm saved.
This development will make it illegal for smallholder farmers to save and re-use own seeds.
In an open letter to member states of ARIPO UN special rapporteur on the right to food Hilal Elver said there is need to begin a new process that is transparent, evidence-based and inclusive of civil society and smallholder farmer representatives.
“It has come to my attention that there is much concern amongst famers’ organisations and networks that the Protocol will negatively impact on the traditional practices of African farmers, in particular, freely using, saving, exchanging and selling farm-saved seed.
“These practices, which are the backbone of agricultural systems in sub-Saharan Africa, have ensured access to and the maintenance of a diverse pool of genetic resources by farmers themselves. Such diversity is key to ensuring food security and sustainability,” Ms Elver said.
She said selling seeds is an important source of income for many farmers.
“The restrictions [of the Protocol] can adversely affect the right to food, as seeds might become either more costly or harder to access. There can also be reduced amount of household income, which is available for food, healthcare or education, thus impacting on a number of human rights.
“Moreover, these restrictions can result in smallholder farmers gradually losing their know-how related to seed selection and seed preservation, which is critical for maintaining sustainable local food systems,” she said.

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