UPOV is entering a new era of transparency & inclusiveness.
The decision of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) to grant observer status to civil society and farmers’ organizations at its annual ordinary session on October 21, 2010 suggest the possibility of a new era of transparency and inclusiveness in UPOV’s discussions.
On 21 October 2010, UPOV’s Council agreed to grant observer status to the Association for Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APBREBES) and to European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) for the Council, the Administrative and Legal Committee (CAJ), the Technical Committee (TC) and the Technical Working Parties (TWPs).
UPOV is an intergovernmental organization headquartered in Geneva (Switzerland) where international rules on plant variety protection are defined with major impacts for food sovereignty, biodiversity and farmers’ rights.
“Farmers are the main users of seeds protected through the intellectual property rights-based system of UPOV. We are therefore grateful to the UPOV member states for granting ECVC observation status. Farmers have the right to be informed and to observe what happens in UPOV”. — Josie Riffaud, head of biodiversity, seeds and environment in ECVC, which represents 24 farmers’ organizations in 16 European countries, and around 200 000 producers.
“We hope that our participation in UPOV deliberations will widen UPOV’s perspective and enable a balanced approach to plant variety protection that stresses on farmers’ rights and the sustainable use of genetic resources” — Francois Meienberg, Berne Declaration, a founding member of APBREBES
“UPOV’s decision to grant observer status to ECVC and APBREBES is in line with the current trend of increased transparency and inclusive participation in intergovernmental organizations such as seen in the World Intellectual Property Organisation. This decision should be seen as a first step towards more transparency and inclusive discussions in UPOV. We look forward to constructive collaboration with UPOV — Sangeeta Shashikant from Third World Network (APBREBES).
No observers are allowed to the main decision making body of UPOV, the Consultative Committee. Only a limited number of UPOV documents are available to the public at the organisation’s website, while a major part of documents are only accessible by passwords at restricted areas.
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. ECVC is composed of 24 farmers and agricultural workers’ unions from across Europe.
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).