The World Seed Conference: Good for farmers?
By Robin Willoughby
Last week, in Rome, a little-known agricultural symposium took place – the World Seed Conference. The conference is held under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Although the conference does not receive much press, it is perhaps the most important conference to farmers in the developing world. Two themes were clearly depicted among the talks from UN figures, government officials, and industry representatives: technology enhanced seeds, and intellectual property rights on genetic resources in poorer countries.
The event turned out to be more or less a meeting among agricultural big wigs to figure out the best way to take advantage of small farmers in poor regions of the world. The biotech industry, along with big agri, are trying to tighten their grip on the world by extending their monopoly rights towards plants created by natural reproduction that cannot be easily manipulated by technology. The outcome of the conference may have a very negative effect on small-scale farmers in developing countries.
Rather than focusing on a collaborative approach to get the best genuine biodiversity and protecting the rights of farmers, much of the discussion over the week came from the industry leaders trying to exploit economically poor, environmentally rich countries. There were, however, a few examples throughout the week that focused on an alternative agricultural approach to sustainable biodiversity, but unfortunately many laws and regulations have already been put in place that only ensures profit to big agri and the biotech industry with little gain for the small farmer.
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