Asian Farmers Condemn TRIPS as One of the Worst Agreements this Century
Hong Kong (Dec 17) -- Asian farmers today described the World Trade Organisation's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as one of the worst agreements crafted by conniving world leaders this century.
In workshop entitled "TRIPS: Defending Farmers' Rights Against Patents on Life", farmers shared their experiences and the impact of seed patenting on their lives. They also discussed strategies to strengthen farmers' resistance against TRIPS and to protect farmers' rights to genetic resources.
"Seeds are the life of the farmers. Farmers have the right to these resources because it is our culture and part of the heritage which has been passed on for generations," said Erpan Faryadi, secretary general of AGRA in Indonesia.
The TRIPs enforces laws for the patenting of seeds and plant varieties by big agrochemical and seed companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta. About 70 per cent of the world's farmers today are still using their own seeds, which makes a very huge potential market for seed corporations. By privatising information, including peoples' knowledge on plants and animals, corporations can control the seeds, and eventually, the whole food supply.
"Patenting of seeds will essentially place monopolistic control and ownership in the hands of multinational companies and trample on the inherent rights of the farmers on these seeds," said Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Asian Peasant Coalition and Peasant Movement of the Philippines.
Farmers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan all came forward to share how they have been affected by the TRIPS.
In these countries, genetically modified crops have been introduced, driving farmers to bankruptcy, threatening local seeds, and endangering human and environmental health. Monocultures of so-called modern plant varieties in these countries are also destroying the diversity of crops which have provided centuries of food security for communities. Most farmers experience the continuous loss of lands and water to companies and big landlords.
According to Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity in Pakistan, the fight against TRIPS must be a political and not a technical one. She described the necessity for a dual fight for land reform and reclamation of genetic resources.
"Until we break the feudal system in Asia there will be no progress. Then we must find the seeds we have lost and bring back fertility to our soil," she said.
Farmers vowed to continue conserving and breeding plant and animal genetic resources, conduct "seed saving" campaigns, biodiversity fairs, farmer-to-farmer seed exchange initiatives, and fighting for legislation to assert collective community rights, GE-free zones and to conduct other bio-safety campaigns.
Lastly, the farmers declared in a joint statement: "We will continue to organise and mobilise our fellow farmers and communities, and expose and oppose the destructive face of WTO. And we will achieve our victory! The people united will never defeated!"
The Asian Workshop on TRIPS was jointly organised by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Peasant Movement of the Philippines), and Magsasaka at Siyentista para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG-Farmers and Scientists Partnership), and sponsored by No Patents on Life (NPOL)-Asia and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC). It was part of the People's Camp on Food Sovereignty during the People's Action Week against the WTO's 6th Ministerial Conference. The Peoples Camp is organised by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia Pacific and the Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) together with 40 People's Organisations and support NGOs from all over Asia and other regions.