The RCEP, IPRs and the threat to traditional farming

Shalini Bhutani, Third World Network | 16 January 2017 | seeds & biodiversity, laws & policies

The stringent intellectual property rules being pushed for adoption by some RCEP members will have an adverse effect on the livelihoods of small and traditional farmers in poorer member states, warns Shalini Bhutani. The concerns of ordinary citizens in countries negotiating the RCEP are therefore not misplaced. Those RCEP members taking a more cautious approach on expanding IP rules will be under pressure to go beyond their currently TRIPS-compliant domestic laws. These governments will need to stay strong for their small farmers and peasant cultures, in view of the potential adverse effects of TRIPS-plus norms on the seed sector.

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By breeding their own seed, farmers are able to create varieties that are suitable for their specific regions and climates, helping them cope better with the increasing shifts, experts say. Zimbabwe is unlikely to ratify a treaty that could strip small farmers of the right to breed and plant their own seed, at least for the time being, The Herald Business reveals.

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Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, says Big Food’s impact on public health should alarm us. Elver is sounding an alarm for the world to hear. Earlier this fall, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food told the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that, despite all the high-profile work being done around the globe to fight hunger and malnutrition, “the world is not on track to reach globally agreed nutrition targets.”

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We, the undersigned civil society organisations from Canada and Europe, hereby express our deep concern about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada. During the long process of the deal’s negotiations and legal check, we repeatedly pointed out major problems with the CETA text. We provided concrete inputs, which could have triggered a shift towards a more transparent and democratic trade policy with the protection of the environment and people’s fundamental rights at its core. But our concerns have not been addressed in the CETA as signed in October 2016. This is why we are stating our firm opposition to the ratification of the agreement.

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Until recently, six or seven global agri-food businesses competed with each other for a share of the world market for seeds and chemicals. But if EU and US regulators allow a series of mega-mergers to take place, within months just three companies will be left in control of nearly 60% of the world’s seeds, nearly 70% of the chemicals and pesticides needed to grow food and nearly all of the world’s GM crop genetic traits.

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Asia-Pacific peoples movements come together to challenge RCEP

APRN, APWLD, AFTINET, Focus on the Global South, Forum against FTAs-India, GRAIN, PSI, TWN and TNI | 01 August 2016 | laws & policies | Malaysia

More than 80 participants representing trade unions, farming communities, indigenous peoples, health networks, women’s organisations, academia and civil society organizations met on 27-28 July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to take stock of the new generation of mega regional free trade agreements (FTAs) emerging in the region. The group shared concerns on the threats to people’s lives and livelihoods posed by the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP is a mega FTA that 16 countries from the Asia-Pacific region are aiming to finalise by 2017.

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By amending Thailand's Plant Varieties Protection Act, seeds will become 200-600% more expensive as the rights of corporations are extended along with expanded patent protection, reducing farmers rights in saving seeds. Food will become more expensive as production costs go up, while food diversity suffers. Farmers will lose the ability to save seeds for planting the next season or for swapping with their neighbors.

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On 23 December 2015, Venezuela’s national assembly passed a new seed law banning the import, production and planting of GMO seeds and protecting the production and free exchange of seed varieties of Venezuela’s farming communities (indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant) among other provisions. The law is significant both for its content and for the process through which it was passed.

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Ever since the ink dried on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), people have become aware of another mega-trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors in the Asia-Pacific region. Like the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) threatens to increase corporate power in member countries, leaving ordinary people with little recourse to assert their rights to things like land, safe food, life-saving medicines and seeds.

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Organizations that are advocating for agroecology among smallholder farmers in Uganda and Africa at large have urged government of Uganda to support small farmers in terms of finances and knowledge to increase food production for their families and income earning, instead of opening Uganda to genetically modified organisms.

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