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Friday, June 1, 2012

Farmer's Right In India


The present project is about the farmer's right in India in conserving plant biodiversity. India is a vast country having number of plant varieties. But by the time we have seen that several plant varieties have been disappeared due to the new hybrid varieties.

What is the reason for disappearing of plant bio-diversity?

The present scenario of biodiversity

What would be the farmers right to control over genetic resources and their self reliance in agriculture is not jeopardized?

How biodiversity can be protected.

It is a matter for concern that how can we stop this disappearance of plant bio diversity and how can we protect the farmer's right. Therefore in the present project I would be analysing the development of farmer's right, what are the rights that constitutes farmers right and also tribals right vis-a-vis farmers rights in India.


The traditional plant varieties which were present at the time of our grandparents are nowhere to be seen today. Those varieties were named as desi varieties. For e.g.: tomato: we can see that tomatoes now which we buy today and eat are different from the traditional variety which was available few years back and was known to be "desi tamatar" (tomato). There is no harm in making the new varieties of food but the thing to remember is that we should never forget our natural varieties and this applies to plants also for traditional plant varieties. These traditional plant varieties and wild species are disappearing and this process has resulted in the disappearance of farming know-how and the genetic information.

Unfortunately the producers of this wealth remain the poorest of the poor and their lot is not getting any better despite considerable interest from outside agencies. The primary reason for this malady is flaw in the ownership and management of Agricultural and Natural Resources. The indigenous genetic resources of poor communities are being lost, because of the spread of industrial agriculture and the consequent marginalisation of small scale food production that they are being stolen by corporate-sponsored scientists and other plant collectors. This is because the rights of the communities, food producers and herbalists to these genetic resources are not recognised.To protect the reduction of biodiversity and risks involved it is necessary to protect it.

Statement of problem:

In the present project the author would be analysing the rights of farmers with respect to plant biodiversity.


Farmers Rights and protection of biodiversity are complementary to each.


To conserve plant biodiversity.

To know the rights of farmers under Plant Varieties Protection Act.

How to safeguard the farmers' right.

To compare tribal and farmers' right.

Method of Analysis:

In the project my I would be using the Doctrinal Research

1) Analytical method.

2) Secondary sources of data.

Development of Plant Biotechnology:

Domestication of plants is a selection process conducted by humans to produce plants that meet the needs of the farmers and the consumer. The practice is estimated to date back 9,000-11,000years. Many crops of today are the result of domestication in ancient times. In the Neolithic period, domestication took a minimum of 1,000 years and a maximum of 7,000 years. Today all are food crops comes from domesticated varieties.

Today this practice of domestication has gone a step further, the fruits, vegetables and other crops grown today are mainly genetically modified. It is improving the quality of food products like in the first Para of the page it is mentioned about tomato, in the same way there are other crops also like potato, papaya (the natural papaya used to have seeds, now papaya we get is without seed), and soya bean, corn, oats, rice etc.

The impact of plant selection and cross breeding on crop species has been tremendous. The wild ancestors of few plants, such as carrots, lettuce, and sunflowers, are readily identifiable, most imp food crops have been altered to such an extent that their wild ancestors are unrecognisable, and in some cases they are unknown altogether. After World War II, the developing world began applying hybrids with great effect. The introduction of a dwarfing gene into wheat by Orville Vogel in the 1940s led to a tremendous improvement in grain yields and began this trend.Norman Borlaug, an American plant breeder, won the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his work in developing improved, high-yield wheat varieties for Mexico.In India these developments led to the green revolution.

In India, the first maize hybrid was released in 1961 for general cultivation, followed by hybrid varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, and non-hybrid, high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat. By 1991, the rice-wheat cropping system covered nearly 10 million ha in India. The new cultivars emerging from various agricultural research centers and private companies were, from the very beginning, uniform and very few in numbers, compared to the great diversity and number of landraces or folk varieties. Today, farmers only grow landraces in small pockets and many have disappeared forever in the wake of modern agriculture, although some have been collected and stored in gene banks. The erosion of crop genetic diversity poses a serious threat to food supplies.

The Indian legislation is the first in the world to grant formal rights to farmers in a way that their control over genetic resources and their self reliance in agriculture is not jeopardised. It has opened possibilities for developing a platform for regulating breeder's and farmer's rights so the both are acknowledged and protected. The Indian law recognises the farmers not just as a cultivator but also as a conserver of gene pool and as a breeder. Moreover the recognisation of tribal laws as tribal rights vis a vis farmers rights will address the conflicts between customary and statutory laws and regulations related to forest ownership and natural resource use while ensuring conservation of genetic resources by local communities.

Reason for disappearance of Plant Biodiversity:

These are the following reasons:

Rural-urban migration: the rural urban migration in India is on a high. People from villages are shifting to the cities in need of good facilities, jobs; etc due to which what these village people used to sow has been disappearing.

Tribal acculturation and constantly shrinking rural populations,:

Also due to the genetic modification of crops.

Green revolution: the green revolution of 1970s was a watershed in Indian Agricultural history. American seeds completely changed the per acre production of India, thereby transforming India from a net importer of food grains to an exporter of the same. But the Green Revolution of modern, high-yielding varieties (including hybrids) of crops has displaced the vast mosaic of traditional crop varieties. There is no systematic information on the loss of genetic diversity in Indian agriculture, but the available data indicate an advanced stage of genetic uniformity in crop plants.

Present scenario of Biodiversity:

India is one of the mega diversity zones of the world, showing wide agro-climatic, geophysical and ethnic variation. At least 167 crop species and 320 wild relatives of crops have their primary, secondary or regional centers of diversity here. The tribal-inhabited belt is particularly the center of domestication and of remarkable genetic diversity in food crops.In India, the first maize hybrid was released in 1961 for general cultivation, followed by hybrid varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, and non-hybrid, high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat. By 1991, the rice-wheat cropping system covered nearly 10 million hectare in India. The new cultivators emerging from various agricultural research centers and private companies were, from the very beginning, uniform and very few in numbers, compared to the great diversity and number of landraces or folk varieties. Today, farmers only grow landraces in small pockets and many have disappeared forever in the wake of modern agric ulture, although some have been collected and stored in gene banks.

It is estimated that just a few decades ago, Indian farmers grew more than 30,000 different varieties of rice, but in another 15 years, this enormous diversity will be reduced to no more than 50 varieties, with the top ten accounting for over three-quarters of the subcontinents' rice acreage (Mooney, 1983). Unless their seeds are replanted by the farmers, these outstanding varieties will be lost forever. Many of these "heirloom" varieties (seeds passed down from generation to generation) are still maintained by gardeners, farmers and tribal's in isolated rural and tribal areas, and are often available in the kitchen gardens, courtyards or home gardens. Today, due to rural-urban migration, tribal acculturation and extinction, and constantly shrinking rural populations, elderly farmers and seed savers often cannot find anyone who will continue growing their living "heirlooms". The rapid disappearance of many traditional varieties of grain and vegetable crops (rice, wheat, su garcane, cotton, minor millets, pulses etc.) has been described as a botanical holocaust.

Need for protecting Farmers' Rights:

Question is raised why the right of farmers are taken into account if hybrid varieties are coming to the market and also benefiting the market. As discussed above the biodiversity is declining day by day, so to protect it is necessary to protect farmers' right first. The answer for the question is as follows:

For the purpose of monetary gain: what monetary gain should they expect from allowing access to corporations which depend on these resources as raw material for their biotechnological agricultural industries. Who are the people who should benefit from these rights,

S Is it the state who should receive the benefits.

S Or it has only to be the communities.

For recognition of their rights: as they grow the crops they are the main owners of the crop, but they do not get the required recognition.

Also for the conservation of our plant biodiversity: for conserving the biodiversity not only the protection of plant varieties is needed but the recognition of farmers right is also to be shown.

And for the "prior informed consent", ensuring communities know what they are agreeing to.

The Development of Farmers' Right:

The GATT, started to restore world trade after the end of the Second World War in 1945. The 1986 GATT round popularly known as Uruguay round brought new elements to the trade discussion specially relating to agriculture one of the most controversial agreements of the Uruguay round is that relating granting of Intellectual Property Rights on biological materials embodied in the TRIPs chapter. TRIPs provided a choice for protecting plant varieties .most of the developing countries including India decided not to have patents but have chosen the sui generis system instead.

NGO's introduced farmer's right in 1985 as a first response to recognise Plant Breeding Rights as an agreed interpretation to the FAO international undertaking on plant genetic resources. Farmers right were entrenched in the IU in right were inserted as well into agenda 21 and also in CBD.

The UPOV at present is the only platform for regulating Plant Breeders Right in the developed countries modulated to protect the interests of agriculture for the industry.

What are Farmers' Right: According to the Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers Right Act, 1991 sec 2 (k) farmers means:

Who cultivates crops by cultivating the land himself; or

Who cultivates crops by directly supervising the cultivation of land through any other person; or

Who conserves and preserves with any person wild species or traditional varieties or adds value to such wild species or traditional varieties through selection and identification of their useful properties.

Farmer's variety means a variety which:

Has been traditionally cultivated and evolved by the farmers in their fields; or

Is a wild relative or land race of variety about which the farmers possess the common knowledge?

From the definition of farmer it could be concluded that a farmer who himself cultivate the land, crops and who conserves and preserves wild species or traditional varieties, doesn't he should have some rights of his own which can pay back his hard work for the country.

The farmer right shall be deemed to be entitled to save use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under plant varieties act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this act.

What Farmer's Right constitute: the protection of Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers Right Act 1991, in section 39 gives 4 clauses for farmer's right it provides:

1} A farmer who has bred or developed a new variety shall be entitled for registration and other protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety;

2} Variety is entitled to registration if declaration contained specified in S. 18(1) (h)

3} A farmer who is engaged in the conservation of genetic resources of economic plants and their improvement through selection and preservation shall be entitled for recognition and reward from the Gene Fund subject to the condition that material so selected and preserved has been used as donors of genes in register able varieties;

4} A farmer is deemed to be entitled to save, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a protected variety. However, the farmer is not entitled to sell brand seed of a protected variety.

Other Farmer's Right which need to be recognised could be:

The right of using appropriate technology as well as participation in the design and management of research programs.

The right over his resources which he produces.

Right to define legal framework of property rights of these resources.

Right to participate in the definition, elaboration and execution of policies and programme linked to genetic resources.

These rights should have national application. Different countries should have their own laws according to their domestic conditions.

Right to means and to conserve bio diversity and achieve food security such as territorial rights, right to land, water and air.

Right to develop models of sustainable agriculture that protect bio diversity and to influence the policies and support it.

Farmer's Right to sell seed: Right to sell seed is the pivotal right of farmers. They should have free access to what they produce, they can sell also. Denying this right of farmers will result in substantial loss of income and also destroy farming community as a major seed provider. It is to be seen that the seeds which are patented they are not allowed to grow by farmers in the field at least for the period of 20 years as patent protection of biological material covers that patented plant varieties if sown than it would result as an infringement of the patent. The 1991 UPOV convention, PBR protect against commercial use of plant varieties for minimum of 20 years. But the "landraces" does not come under the patent regime.

Other kinds of Farmer's Rights: Section 42 of plant variety protection and farmers right act 1991 talks about the registration of any variety to disclose the information regarding the use of genetic material by any tribal or rural family in the breeding or development of such variety in the application.

Sec 41 talks about the community rights that a claim regarding the evolution of any variety can be made by any person, govt or nongovernmental organisation on behalf of such village or local community.

Sec 42 talks about protection of innocent infringement and

Sec 43 talks about authorisation of farmer's right.

Sec 44 says farmers who wish to examine documents and papers or receive copies of rules and decision made by the various authorities is exempted from paying any fees.

Tribal Rights vis--vis Farmer's Right: The tribal-inhabited belt is more often the center of domestication and genetic diversity of food crops (cereals and pseudo cereals, millets, grain legumes, vegetables, spices and condiments, oil plants etc.), being maintained by peasants and subsistence farmers. These areas hold unique and important genetic materials which should be strictly protected against:

Heavy grazing

Intensive farming

Commercial logging

Construction of highways

Mining operations etc

There is a great potential for developing forest based livelihoods in many parts of India like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, north east India, etc.

For enhancing the forest based livelihood only policies are not enough but a strong scientific basis for determining harvesting and extraction level, value addition, marketing and benefit sharing. There should be recognition of tribal tribunal or council in the regions which already have their own traditional laws for agriculture management. This recognition of tribal laws as tribal rights vis a vis farmers right will address the conflicts between customary and statutory laws and regulation regulated to forest ownership and natural resource use while ensuring conservation of genetic resources by the local communities.

By this tribal communities of India will gain control over resources and will understand their responsibility. By this poverty under these areas can also be cured. They will get the self empowerment. This way will lead them to new technologies so that they would be able to generate income for their livelihood.


We should implement community mechanisms to safeguard the rights of rural folks, more particularly farmers over their products. This mechanism can also be used to improve existing techniques. We have had a living example of it in india itself. E.g. Women farmers from Andhra Pradesh, supported by the Department of Rural Development, are taking the lead in implementing what is probably the world's largest state supported ecological farming project called �Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture'. These women have shown that pest management in farming is fairly simpleto manage provided appropriate extension .This experience of non chemical farming on whopping 1million acres proves that farming without chemicals or GM seeds is indeed possible and that it is only a matter of political will. If this is done in other parts of the country than it could be a great help for the farmers.

Secondly, Intellectual Property Rights should be narrowly tailored so that it does not stifle the further research and development so that farmers can also grow them. To benefit the farmers and growing population the new plant varieties will have to be developed through variety of sources, including:

Farmers who select plants that succeed best in their particular locality for the retention of seed for future use or sale;

For profit companies interested in creating new products and markets that develop new varieties financed through profit from sale seeds.

Farmer's should be given a right to preserve their local or community landraces through prejudicial disclosures.

They should be given right to own new varieties, which they discovered and developed.

This is a challenge to farmers that if there is further extension of the IPR systems they do not infringe the rights of the small scale food producers. In India now there is a sui generis system. However the challenge is how it's been implemented. For that there is a need of consultation to the farmers or local communities and also their full support. Only than the knowledge of the community of plant biodiversity can be assured.

The aim of the farmer's right is to recognise the past and present contributions of farmers and tribal communities, especially the developing countries. To the creation, conservation availability of biodiversity.

The domestic patent and IPR legislations should include provisions regarding farmer's privilege of planting saved seed in successive seasons and not only the legislations but we can also save these varieties by sowing them to our kitchen gardens.

A dynamic farmer-based approach to landraces conservation, enhancement and utilization is recommended and agro-ethno botanical knowledge must be tapped, in conjunction with modern scientific advances.


Humans and nature are dependent on each other. Therefore it should be ensured that new technologies which are arising shall not come between nature and mankind. In this case, farmers right and plant bio diversity are complementary. In a country like ours, biotechnological innovations by farmers' have been common since ages. But regimes like UPOV, which are now more like patent-like regime for plant variety protection, are a hindrance to development of newer varieties by indigenous farmers as well as for development of new varieties.

If this is not done than this knowledge may not be able to pass from generation to generation and may be lost forever. Farmers' right protection is a vital issue for an agricultural country like ours.

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