Amended plant protection act ‘must take care of farmers’
Academics have called for the scope of the Plant Varieties Protection Act to be expanded to also protect farmers.
Addressing a public seminar at BioThai Foundation, they said that unless the Act was drafted properly to protect farmers’ rights, the country’s agricultural sector would be taken over by big corporates, jeopardising food and drug security.
Associate Professor Somchai Ratanachueskul, dean of the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce Faculty of Law, said the amended draft put forward by the Agriculture Department overwhelmingly benefited plant breeders, but failed to ensure the fundamental rights of the farmers, which could create more problems in the future.
Somchai said the new version of the Plant Varieties Protection Act, which was adapted to align with the UPOV 1991 agreement, put farmers at a disadvantage, as they would be at great risk of being sued for planting licensed seeds. The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, or UPOV, is an intergovernmental organisation with headquarters in Geneva.
He warned that this law would give big companies a huge advantage and enable them to monopolise the food and pharmaceutical industries, eventually making consumers dependent on their expensive food and medicines.
“The farmers are always on the defensive, as they only protest to prevent the enforcement of unfair laws,” he said.
“Even if they win, there will be another effort next year to amend the law to benefit big companies. They [the farmers] have to resume the fight. I suggest we have a law that respects the farmers’ rights as well as the plant breeders’ rights.”
He said the new Plant Varieties Protection Act must ensure protection for local wisdom on plant diversity, the farmers should be able to benefit from biodiversity of resources, and they must be invited to participate in any decision-making involving their interests.