Support Campaign for Farmers and Civil Society Organizations to obtain Observer Status in UPOV bodies

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The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is the intergovernmental organization which sets the international rules for plant variety protection, having a great impact on food sovereignty, biodiversity and farmer’s rights.

Last October, the applications for observer status by the Association of Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APREBES) and the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) were denied by the UPOV. However, associations representing biotechnology, intellectual property lawyers and main seed companies’ interests do take active part in UPOV meetings.

APREBES and ECVC are now applying again for Observer Status in UPOV bodies. Next UPOV meeting will be held at the end of March in Geneva.

Please, sign the following letter addressed to the UPOV Member States and Secretariat in order to support both applications.

And, please, send your sign, organization’s name, country and contact details to Sangeeta Shashikant, before the 14 March 2010.


To: Mr. Francis Gurry, Secretary-General of UPOV, Dr. Rolf Jördens, Vice Secretary-General of UPOV, Member States of UPOV.


We, the undersigned organisations, call on UPOV to open its doors to farmer and civil society organizations.

Last October, the UPOV Consultative Committee rejected the applications by the Association of Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APBREBES) and the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) for observer status in UPOV bodies. Moreover, ECVC learned of the rejection through official minutes, for the UPOV did not even consider it necessary to communicate the results of its application for observer status to ECVC.

As a Union of States, the UPOV must represent the interests of all their people. So as we see it, this rejection was groundless and is simply unacceptable.

ECVC is a member of Via Campesina, the greatest international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers.

APBREBES was founded by organizations working on plant breeding and issues relating to UPOV regulations. APBREBES is composed of the following organizations: Berne Declaration (Switzerland); Center for International Environmental Law (USA); Community Technology Development Trust (Zimbabwe); Development Fund (Norway); Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (Nepal); SEARICE - The Southeast Asia Regional Initiative for Community Empowerment (Philippines); and Third World Network (Malaysia).

It is out of question that ECVC and APBREBES have competence in areas of direct relevance in respect of matters governed by the UPOV.

We believe that the decision of the UPOV regarding the application for observer status needs to be reconsidered. This decision is disappointing. It shows the UPOV has either no wish to include or to support farmer and civil society organizations working for peasants, small and medium scale farmers and the broader public. The UPOV also proves to prefer involving right-holders, private seed companies, and their representatives in decision taking processes and to be against any variety of points of view during its debates. This attitude is against the global trend towards a more integrating participation of civil society in multilateral intergovernmental forums.

Organizations such as the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI); the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries’ Association (EFPIA); the International Federation of Industrial Property Attorneys (FICPI) and other associations representing interests of major seed and biotechnology companies hold observer status at UPOV.

As a consequence, it is unjustifiable that farmer and civil society organizations such as ECVC and APBREBES were denied observer status last October. And so proves the recent report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by presenting evidence of the possible negative impact of plant variety protection laws on the lives of farmers and food sovereignty.

We believe the representation of all parties concerned is crucial for a further development of the UPOV. Given the UPOV is an intergovernmental organisation, it cannot only serve the interests of the private sector and ignore the interests of peasants, small and medium scale farmers and the broader public.

We strongly support the application by ECVC and APBREBES for observer status in UPOV bodies and urge the UPOV Secretariat and Member States to grant observer status to ECVC and APBREBES at the next UPOV-Meeting in March 2010.

A rejection of the applications would mean to the world that UPOV only favours certain parties and is not interested in taking into account issues affecting the most vulnerable communities, food sovereignty and biodiversity.

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