The Farmers' Rights Project - Background Study 4: Farmers' Rights in India - A Case Study

FNI Report 6/2006. Lysaker, FNI, 2006, 52 p.

India is among the first countries in the world to have passed legislation granting Farmers’ Rights in the form of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001. India’s experience is important due to its international contribution to negotiations on Farmers’ Rights, its position as a centre of biodiversity, and the complexities of agriculture in India within which the country is attempting to implement these rights. This case study provides an overview of the state of Farmers’ Rights, and opinions of over forty stakeholders in India including farmers, NGOs, industry and government representatives, on the prospects for the further realization of Farmers’ Rights. India’s law is unique in that it simultaneously aims to protect both breeders and farmers. The study analyses the achievements, barriers and limitations of India’s approach. One of the findings is that the attempt to evolve a multiple rights system could pose several obstacles to the utilization and exchange of plant genetic resources among farmers. India has framed a unique legislation, but still faces the task of implementation, without any clear consensus among the various stakeholders on how to achieve these rights. This should serve as a signal internationally that establishing legislation is insufficient to effectively promote Farmers’ Rights. An international mechanism is urgently required to promote some level of consensus on defining and implementing these vital rights. If the global community does not face up to the challenge of unambiguously articulating Farmers’ Rights, what has been achieved so far in the battle to establish these rights may be lost. Such a loss would be heavy for farmers in India and other developing countries who need Farmers’ Rights to protect their livelihoods, secure their access to resources, protect their rights to seeds, and, above all, lift them out of poverty.