Keep crop seeds patent-free in order to maintain world food security

255 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from 54 countries call on negotiators to endorse an agreement that will keep open access for all to the seeds of the world’s most important crops, unrestricted by patents and intellectual property rights.

Next week (23-28 April 2001) in Spoleto, Italy, negotiations on the revised International Undertaking at FAO will continue. The outcome of the 41 countries’ deliberations will decide the fate of billions of people who currently depend on freely exchanged farmers’ seeds. These seeds provide the diversity of food for the world. Unless free access is guaranteed the world’s ability to ensure food security will be profoundly affected.

Failure to achieve agreement will lead to a rapid reduction in the exchange of plant breeding stocks between countries and institutions and amongst farmers themselves. Agricultural research and the future of a half million seed samples of 30 food crops will also be threatened. Farmers’ Rights freely to save, exchange, and sell seeds will be denied.

The world’s seeds will increasingly fall into the hands of multinational corporations who, protected by patents and intellectual property rights, will decide what and whether people will eat.
If negotiations succeed the International Undertaking will be agreed by the Conference of the FAO in November 2001 and will become legally binding.

CSOs and their networks are closely watching the outcome: increased public attention is being brought to bear on these negotiations. CSOs have insisted in their letter that the negotiators must not fail and have said to them: “Time is running out but an agreement, supported by a majority of countries, is within your grasp…Global food security and the livelihoods of millions of rural households depend on your work in Spoleto: you must not abdicate your responsibilities”.