The Right to Seeds in Europe
In the European Union (EU) and EU member states, seed laws and regulations were designed to further develop
the agricultural industry on the continent, and farmers’ rights have been largely neglected. Peasants’ and
farmers’ seed systems and traditional knowledge have not been sufficiently supported. European seed diversity
has suffered a drastic decline in recent decades, largely due to a normative framework that prohibits the
marketing of peasant and traditional seeds and restricts the use of farm-saved seeds.
National seed catalogues and the EU common catalogue were designed to promote industrial seeds covered by plant breeders’ rights and agricultural standards, largely excluding peasant seeds, and in a number of countries the saving, exchange and msale of peasant seeds have been banned, while a European regulation bans or taxes the use of farm-saved seeds and patents on “native genes” of seeds are still not banned. This has discouraged and, in some cases, hindered
the continuation of peasant farming activities.
To respond to these challenges, among others, the United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants and
other people working in rural areas (UNDROP) was adopted by a large majority of countries in 2018. The
UNDROP recognizes the right to seeds, and it provides that states shall ‘elaborate, interpret and apply relevant
international agreements and standards to which they are party, in a manner consistent with their human rights
obligations as they apply to peasants’; ‘ensure that seed policies, plant variety protection and other intellectual
property laws, certification schemes and seed marketing laws respect and take into account the rights, needs
and realities of peasants’; and ‘support peasant seed systems, and promote the use of peasant seeds and
UNDROP’s implementation represents a unique opportunity to rebalance the lack of support given to peasant
seed systems in Europe, compared to the support given to industrial seed systems in recent decades. This is
essential for the protection of the lives and livelihoods of millions of peasants, as well as the interest of all in
the preservation of crop biodiversity.
In 2018, the European Parliament called for EU Member States to support the adoption of the UNDROP, and
the European Economic and Social Committee called on European institutions and EU Member State
governments to actively support the UNDROP in all future work leading up to its realization. Following these
calls, and in accordance with the need to apply international instruments adopted by the UN General Assembly
in good faith, the EU and EU Member States shall ensure that their laws and policies, as well as the
international agreements to which they are party, do not lead to violations, but to a better protection of rights
of peasants, including their right to seeds.
This webinar aims to discuss how UNDROP’s article 19, which recognizes the right to seeds, shall be taken
into account in the revision of EU rules on seeds. It aims to bring together parliamentarians, representatives of
peasant organizations, seed networks, academics and experts from Europe.
18:00-18:10 – Welcome and Introduction by Ramona Duminicioiu (ECVC)
18h10 – 19h20 Panel: The Right to Seeds in Europe
Moderation by Katherine Dolan, Arche Noah
Presentations (30 min.)
• The Right to Seeds in International Law – by Christophe Golay, Senior Research Fellow, Geneva
Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
• The UNDROP’s Contribution to European Farmers’ Right to Seeds – by Fulya Batur, Kybele
• Peasants’ Seeds Systems and the EU Law: Which legal changes are needed in the EU in order to
comply with the UNDROP? – by Guy Kastler, representative of the seeds WG of the European
Coordination of Via Campesina (ECVC)
Reactions from Members of the European Parliament (10 min.) (tbc)
Questions from the floor to the panelists and responses (30 min.)
19:20-19:30 Closing Remarks by Antonio Onorati (ECVC)
Simultaneous interpretation will be provided in English, French and Spanish.
Registration is required, following this Zoom link.
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