International Plant Genetics Treaty Goes Into Effect

Farmers in developing countries can now save seeds for next
year’s harvest and avoid a famine, without running abreast of the
law. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food
and Agriculture, which took effect on Tuesday, June 29, validates
farmers’ right to plan ahead, and opens up ‘a multilateral system
providing public access to seeds and germplasm for much of the
world’s food supply, as well as fair and equitable sharing of the
benefits,’ writes the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Yet the international treaty has not been ratified in Washington
D.C., where biotech giants like Monsanto hold plenty of sway.

American ‘biotech companies like Monsanto have filed hundreds of
legal cases against farmers alleging that they saved the company’s
patented genetically engineered seeds from one growing season to
the next,’ writes the IATP. This groundbreaking treaty contradicts
the powerful World Trade Organization’s agreement on Trade-Related
Intellectual Property Rights, firmly backed by the current Bush
administration, ‘which sets international rules that protect
intellectual property.’ The American biotech industry still
maintains that their seeds must be used in the year they are
purchased, and even ‘if the U.S. ratified the treaty, it would not
give U.S. farmers the right to save seeds,’ the IATP writes.

But the issue is critical to developing countries, where species
of seeds — rice, maize, wheat, and potatoes — make up more than
half of the food supply. Farmers around the world, particularly in
developing countries, routinely save seeds and view the practice as
critical to their survival. ‘Many countries in Africa, Asia and
South America are grappling with whether to accept genetically
engineered cops,’ says Kristin Dawkins, Vice President of
International Programs at IATP. ‘As these countries establish their
regulatory systems, this treaty gives them legal standing to pass
protections for their farmers when it comes to saving seeds.’
Jacob Wheeler

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Plant Genetics Treaty Goes Into Effect

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