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Trade deals pushing UPOV: an interactive map

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Stop UPOV global alliance | 1 December 2021

Trade deals pushing UPOV: an interactive map

Which countries use free trade deals to push corporate control over seeds? Which countries are under attack from these deals?

In the early 1990s, through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), seed corporations successfully lobbied governments to give up sovereignty over their seeds and give in to the system of intellectual property rights on plant varieties. This process resulted in the strengthening of UPOV, the hitherto little-known common regime set up by a small group of European countries, aimed at privatising seeds and protecting them in the interest of its plant breeders. Today, the push to join UPOV, or to at least follow its rules known as UPOV 91, is raging under the auspices of various trade negotiations negotiated outside the WTO.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) have become the tool of choice for industrialised countries, working with corporate lobbies, to push governments of the global South to adopt new rules that restrict farmers’ from saving, exchanging and breeding seeds. Everyday practices that have sustained farmers and agriculture for generations have now become criminalised across many parts of the world.

A new map based on GRAIN’s dataset of signed FTAs in the past 20 years can help visualise which countries use free trade deals to push corporate control over seeds and which countries are under attack from these trade deals. On UPOV’s 60th anniversary, 2 December 2021, we want to say STOP UPOV! Find out below how, during a week of action, you can support groups from across the world reinforce the resistance to seed laws and expose the role of free trade in threatening the millennial work of farmers.

UPOV is the International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties.

*Cases of countries not joining or resisting UPOV occur when these countries sign the trade deal but don’t change their seed law and/or don’t push through with UPOV membership, e.g. due to strong pressure from citizens or a government’s reluctance to amend its seed laws.

**Countries not member of UPOV91 but implementing its provisions through another mechanism, e.g. as part of a regional intellectual property organisation like OAPI or as members of a regional economic grouping like Comesa.

Global Week of Action against UPOV 2-8 December:

1. Join or organise training sessions, discussions and debates about UPOV and seed laws in your communities/countries:

  1. Stop Golden Rice Network discussion and online protest on UPOV and Privatization of Seeds in Asia, December 2, 16h PH time
  2. Cote d’Ivoire: Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environment (JVE) and COPAGEN workshop with youth, academics and media on seed privatisation and online mobilisation, December 2. For more information contact JVE Cote d’Ivoire
  3. Indonesia: online campaign on UPOV and FTAs by Gerak Lawan; Indonesia Peasant Union (SPI) and Food Sovereignty network, discussion on UNDROP and the challenge from UPOV, December 2. More details to come at:
  4. India: Community seed festival, webinar in Kannada. Contact Sahaja Seeds for more information
  5. Mexico: public event on UPOV and privatisation of seeds at Mexico cultural centre, 3 December. Contact CECCAM for more information
  6. Seed policy dialogue on UPOV and its application in Europe, 8 December 2021 from 17h00-18h30, more details to come at
  7. December 8, Protest in front of UPOV office: symbolic liberation of seeds. Swiss Farmers and NGOs organise a symbolic action in front of the UPOV Geneva office: To protest against the privatization of seeds through UPOV, in a street theatre, farmers free their plants from the chains of intellectual property rights. Contact Uniterre for more information
  8. Find out about more actions by going to our Facebook group:

2. Resources to check out: UPOV the great seed robbery; how UPOV is misleading developing countries; UPOV animation

3. Sign-on to the call of a Global Week of Action against UPOV here

4. Raise awareness, put pressure on your government and take action in your farm and community to prioritize food sovereignty and farmers’ seeds in public policies. Use the hashtags #STOPUPOV #UPOV

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 source: GRAIN