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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar10/05)
11 March 2010
Third World Network

Dear Friends,

Please find below a call to support farmer and civil society groups trying to obtain observer status in UPOV.

About 40 organizations worldwide have signed on to an Open Letter to UPOV Secretariat & Member States supporting the application.

See the Call of support & Open letter to UPOV below.

If you would like to sign on to the Open letter below email Sangeeta Shashikant at sangeeta@thirdworldnetwork.net  with the name of your Organisation, Country and details of a contact person by 14th March 2010.

UPOV administers UPOV 1991 Convention which provides a framework for plant variety protection designed for the commercisalised farming systems of developed countries.

UPOV 91, contains extensive protection for plant breeders to the prejudice of farmers' rights and severely restricts the scope of other breeders to innovate around protected varieties (the breeders' exemption), thus affecting the food security and equity goals of developing countries on the whole. Most of the NGOs that have observer status in UPOV represent industry’s interest.

Regards
Third World Network

CALL TO SUPPORT FARMER & CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS' APPLICATION TO UPOV  FOR OBSERVER STATUS

By:

European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC), a member of Via Campesina

APBREBES which is made up of: Berne Declaration (Switzerland); Center for International Environmental Law (USA); Community Technology Development Trust (Zimbabwe); Development Fund (Norway); Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (Nepal); Searice - The Southeast Asia Regional Initiative for Community Empowerment (Philippines); and Third World Network (Malaysia).

Dear Friends,

UPOV is an intergovernmental organization where international rules on plant variety protection are defined with major impacts for food sovereignty, biodiversity and farmers’ rights. Last October, UPOV rejected applications by the Association of Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APBREBES) and the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) for observer status although associations that represent the interests of major seed and  biotechnology companies or the interests of IP lawyers actively participate in UPOV meetings,

Now, APBREBES & the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) are applying again for observer status to UPOV. The next UPOV meeting will take place at the end of March in Geneva.

To support the Application to UPOV for Observer status please sign-on to the attached Open Letter addressed to the UPOV Secretariat & its member States.

TO SIGN-ON please email Sangeeta Shashikant at sangeeta@thirdworldnetwork.net with the name of your Organisation, Country and details of a contact person by 14th March 2010.

For more information on the rejection for observer status, please see the press release at http://www.evb.ch/en/p16720.html. See also IP-Watch’s story titled “Farmers’ Advocacy Groups Rejected As Observers In Plant Rights Organisation” (10 Nov. 2009) available at http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2009/11/10/farmers’-advocacy-groups-rejected- <http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2009/11/10/farmers%C2%B9-advocacy-groups-rejected-> as-observers-in-plant-rights-organisation/   

For further enquiries contact:

Sangeeta Shashikant (Third World Network): sangeeta@thirdworldnetwork.net

Fergal Anderson (European Coordination Via Campesina): fergal@eurovia.org

Teshome Hunduma (Development Fund-Norway): teshome@utviklingsfondet.no

François Meienberg (Berne Declaration-Switzerland): food@evb.ch

Shreeram P Neopane (LI-BIRD – Nepal): sneopane@libird.org

Open letter

TO:

M Francis Gurry, Secretary General of UPOV,

Dr. Rolf Jördens, Vice-Secretary General of UPOV,

Member States of UPOV

SUPPORT FOR FARMER AND CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS’ OBSERVER STATUS TO UPOV

We, the undersigned organisations call on UPOV to open its doors to farmer and civil society organizations.

Last October, UPOV’s Consultative Committee rejected the application by the Association of Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APBREBES) and the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) for observer status in UPOV’s bodies. In addition, ECVC learned of the rejection through official meeting records, as UPOV did not even consider it necessary to communicate to ECVC of the outcome of the application for observer status.

UPOV being a Union of States must represent the interests of all their people.  Thus in our view, this rejection was without any concrete basis and is simply unacceptable.

ECVC is a member of Via Campesina, the biggest international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers.

APBREBES is founded by organizations working on plant breeding and issues related to UPOV regulations. APBREBES is made up of the following organizations: Berne Declaration (Switzerland); Center for International Environmental Law (USA); Community Technology Development Trust (Zimbabwe); Development Fund (Norway); Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (Nepal); Searice - The Southeast Asia Regional Initiative for Community Empowerment (Philippines); and Third World Network (Malaysia).

The competence of ECVC and APBREBES in matters governed by UPOV is beyond question.

We are of the view that UPOV’s decision on the application for observer status needs to be revisited. The decision is disappointing. It shows that UPOV is not inclusive or supportive of farmer and civil society organizations that work in the interest of peasants, small and medium scale farmers and the broader public. It also shows that UPOV favors and prefers to largely involve right-holders, private seed companies, and their representatives in its decision making processes and is against having a variety of views presented in the Organization’s discussions. Its attitude is against the global trend of more inclusive participation of civil society in multilateral intergovernmental fora.

Organizations such as the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI); International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries’ Association (EFPIA); International Federation of Industrial Property Attorneys (FICPI) and other associations that represent interests of major seed and biotechnology companies and IP holders have observer status at UPOV.

As such it is indefensible that farmer and civil society organizations such as ECVC and APBREBES were denied observer status last October. This is even more so in view of the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food that has presented evidence of the possible adverse impact of plant variety protection laws on the lives of farmers and food sovereignty.

We are of the view that representation of all stakeholders is crucial for the further development of UPOV. UPOV being an intergovernmental organisation cannot only serve the interests of the private sector and ignore the interests of peasants, small and medium scale farmers and the broader public.

We strongly support the application by ECVC and APBREBES for observer status in UPOV bodies  and urge the UPOV Secretariat and Member States to grant observer status to ECVC and APBREBES at the next UPOV-Meeting in March 2010.

A rejection of the applications would signify to the world that UPOV only favors certain stakeholders and is not interested in taking into account issues that affect, the most vulnerable communities, food sovereignty and biodiversity.

Signatories

1. Action Aid, Pakistan

2. Agric Link Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited, Nigeria.

3. ARCHE NOAH, Austria

4. Association d’ Agriculture Contractuelle de Proximite, Switzerland

5. Association les Mangeurs, Switzerland

6.  Bio Suisse, Switzerland

7.  Coopérative Les Jardins de Cocagne, Switzerland

8. Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Switzerland

9. Die Grünen Schweiz – Les Verts Suisse; Switzerland

10. Diverse Women for Diversity, India

11. Ecoropa, Germany

12. EED (Church Development Service), Germany

13. Farmer's Initiatives for Ecological Livelihoods and Democracy (FIELD), Indonesia

14. GENET - European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering, Euriope

15. Initiative for Health equity & Society, India

16. Jardin des Charrotons, Switzerland

17. Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (KBioC), Kenya

18. "Kein Patent auf Leben!"  "No Patent on Life!", Germany

19. Kheti Virasat Mission, India.

20. Lok Sanjh Foundation, Pakistan

21. Lopin bleu, Association consommateurs-producteurs, Switzerland

22. Network Opposed to GMOs (NO2GMOs), Philippines

23. Oikos - fellesorganisasjon for økologisk produksjon og forbruk, Norway

24. Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia

25.  Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA)

26. Peoples Health Council South Asia

27. Pour la Coopérative Européenne Longo maï, St. Johanns-Vorstadt 13, case postale, 4004 Bâle

28. Programa Universitario México nación Multicultural -UNAM-PUMC-UNAM sede Oaxaca

29. Interessengemeinschaft für gentechnikfreie Saatgutarbeit (IG Saatgut), Germany, Austria, Switzerland

30. Sahaja samrudha-Organic farmers association of Karnataka

31. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), Sarawak, Malaysia

32. Senterungdommen, Norway

33. Schweizer Bergheimat, Switzerland,  

34. Spire, the Development Funds Youth Organization, Norway

35. Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation    

36. Thanal, India

37. Uniterre, Switzerland

38. Urs Weber, Switzerland

39. Vision Landwirtschaft, Switzerland

 


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