The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and the Protection of the Right to Seeds in Europe

Started in January 2018

For over 10,000 years, peasants have always saved, selected, exchanged and sold seeds, and used and reused them to produce food. This is essential to peasants' right to food, as well as to global food security and biodiversity.

But the protection of intellectual property rights over seeds at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), and the promotion of commercial seed systems have posed serious challenges to the protection of these customary practices, and to the maintenance of peasant seed systems and agro-biodiversity. In Europe, the creation of seed catalogues exclude peasants’ seeds, which in many cases cannot be offered for sale, and peasant seed systems are not well protected.

To respond to these challenges, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council notably adopted a UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration), in which the right to seeds is recognized.

The Geneva Academy supported, via dedicated research, the preparatory work that led to the negotiation of a UN Declaration (2008-2012) and the negotiation itself (2013-2018).

Objectives

This project aims at raising awareness among European seed networks and peasant organizations on the importance of the UN Declaration.

The project will notably identify, via the publication of a guide and expert workshops, the main opportunities and obstacles to protect the right to seeds in Europe. It will also discuss how to promote changes in European laws, policies and trade agreements to ensure that they do not infringe, but facilitate the realization of peasants’ right to seeds.

This project received a grant from the Fondation Salvia.

TEAM

Picture of Adriana Bessa

Adriana Bessa

Senior Research Fellow

Adriana Bessa's research areas include the rights of traditional local communities, the draft declaration on the rights of peasants and the right to food.

Picture of Christophe Golay

Christophe Golay

Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Christophe Golay's expertise relates to economic, social and cultural rights, the right to food and the rights of peasants.

Publications

Cover of the Research-Brief: The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

Research Brief: The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

March 2017

Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

The Right to Seeds and Intellectual Property Rights

May 2016

Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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NEWS

Wheat field News

New Research Project on the Right to Seeds in Europe

9 January 2018

The project uses the new draft UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas as a reference to promote changes in European laws, policies and trade agreements to ensure that these facilitate the realization of peasants’ right to seeds.

Read more >

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