Intellectual property rights over plants and seeds opposed

Our Correspondent; February 12, 2021

Leaders of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity on Wednesday criticised the Ministry of National Food Security and Research’s recent decision to start the registration process for granting intellectual property rights (IPRs) for plants and seeds under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 and said that the act would take away farmers’ centuries-old traditional rights of saving and selling seeds.

Roots for Equity’s chairperson Dr Azra Sayeed and PKMT leaders Raja Mujeeb and Asif Khan, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, said that as a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights over seeds, not only would the country become dependent on corporations for national food security and food sovereignty, but the royalties paid to transnational corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed prices.

They said that it is a criminal act and goes against the ethical dictates of society. They claimed that the implementation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, like the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015, is dictated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The registration process is due to start on February 15. The agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds, they said.

“Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission,” said Sayeed.

“The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, just like the intellectual property rights laws, is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system, patents or a combination of both and provides mechanisms for owners holding intellectual property rights over plants and seeds to seek legal protection for their ownership of plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety.”

She said that is granted through Plant Breeders’ Rights laws, and the WTO, particularly TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production. “Seeds are living organisms and through genetic modification, transnational corporations are commodifying nature and seeking intellectual property rights to gain control of the seed sector,” she said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/788820-intellectual-property-rights-over-plants-and-seeds-opposed

Farmers condemn launch of Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry

Faiza Ilyas

KARACHI: Describing a recent federal government decision to launch Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry from Feb 15 as ‘illegal’ and ‘unethical’, representatives of Pakistan Kisan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday demanded that all laws granting control over agriculture to “imperialist states and corporations” be nullified.

The briefing was organised in collaboration with Roots for Equity, a non-profit organisation working for rights of vulnerable communities, especially landless farmers.

Sharing farmers’ concerns over a recent public notice of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research inviting applications for protection of new plant varieties of cotton and maize, Raja Mujeeb of PKMT-Sindh said that it’s an illegal step given the fact that a petition challenging the Seed Amendment Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 had been pending in court since 2017.

“We filed writ petitions against these two acts before a full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) arguing that these laws could not be passed by the parliament in the light of devolution under 18th Constitutional Amendment and that these laws have ignored and trampled on farmers’ rights recognised by Pakistan, which is a party to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.”

“The Plant Breeders’ Act basically takes away centuries’ old traditional rights of farmers of saving, exchanging and selling seeds. As a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights (IPRs) over seeds, not only the country would become dependent on corporations for food security and sovereignty, but the royalties paid to corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed/crop prices.”

Farmers, who were already reeling from the increased cost of production and reduced crop prices, would have to shoulder the added burden of procuring the specific agricultural inputs mandated by the seed companies, said Asif Khan of PKMT-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

‘WTO dictates’

The speakers criticised the food ministry for starting registration of seed varieties for cotton and maize despite a major decline in cotton production due to use of international genetically modified (GM) seeds.

They also highlighted the devastating impact of GM crops on health and the environment which had led many European countries to impose a ban on them.

They claimed that the implementation of the Seed Amendment Act and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act was dictated by the World Trade Organisation under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The agreement, it was explained, made it mandatory for the government to provide IPRs on new varieties of plants and seeds. “Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new plant varieties or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission. The WTO, particularly, TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production,” said Azra Sayeed of Roots.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2021

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606606

Plant Breeders’ Right Act – an Anti-Farmer Law

Press Release; February 10, 2021

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity held a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on February 10th, 2021 to protest against the decision of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to start the registration process for granting intellectual property rights over plants and seeds under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016. The registration process is due to start on February 15th, 2021.

According to PKMT, implementation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, like the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 is dictated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.  The TRIPs agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds. Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission. The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, just like the intellectual property rights laws, is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system, patents or a combination of both and provides mechanisms for owners holding intellectual property rights over plants and seeds to seek legal protection for their ownership of plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety. This is granted through Plant Breeders’ Rights laws. WTO, particularly TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production.

Seeds are living organisms and through genetic modification, transnational corporations are commodifying nature and seeking intellectual property rights to gain control of the seed sector. This is a criminal act and goes against the ethical dictates of society. Farmers’ organizations worldwide have been protesting against genetic modification (GM) of seeds and the enforcement of intellectual property rights over living matter since the creation of the WTO in 1995. The negative impact of GMOs on human health and environment has become apparent leading a number of developed European countries to impose a ban on GM crops.

The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 basically takes away farmers’ centuries old traditional rights of saving, exchanging and selling seeds. As a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights over seeds, not only will the country become dependent on corporations for national food security and food sovereignty but the royalties paid to transnational corporations for IPRs will massively increase seed prices. Farmers, who are already reeling from the impact of increased production costs and reduced crop prices, will have to shoulder the added burden of procuring the specific agricultural inputs mandated by the seed companies.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research has requested for the registration of seed varieties for cotton and maize even though national cotton production has been facing decline and destruction due to the use of international GM seeds. Due to this, not only have the small and landless farmers been deprived of local and indigenous cotton seeds but as a result of relentless pest attacks causing crop failure, landless women agriculture workers are also being deprived of their livelihoods. On the other hand, the national economy is dealing with the high costs of cotton imports.

PKMT filed writ petitions challenging the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 before the Full Bench of the Lahore High Court arguing that these laws could not have been passed by Parliament in light of the devolution under the 18th Amendment, and that these laws ignore and trample upon farmers rights as recognized by Pakistan, which is party to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resouces for Food and Agriculture. In this light, the formation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights registry and the registration for IPRs on seeds by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research can be considered illegal and unethical. PKMT will be filing a stay application against the launch of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry before the Lahore High Court.

PKMT totally repudiates the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 and demands that all laws granting control over agriculture to imperialist states and corporations should be nullified. PKMT and all small and landless farmers of Pakistan humbly request the respected Lahore High Court to recognize the principles of Food Sovereignty by swiftly reinstating farmers’ traditional rights over use, control and access of seeds in context to its sale and exchange.

Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) & Roots for Equity

Boosting Performing Art Skills of Theatre Artistes working on Social Change

The PUKAR theatre group performing at a local village after the training on Interactive Theatre for Influencing in 2019.

Imam Uddin Soomro is an active member of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), an alliance of small-scale and landless farmers including women farmers. Imam collects data on crops and conducts awareness sessions for farmers on sustainable agriculture, green revolution and globalization. As a member of a local theatre group named, PUKAR, since 2018, Imam also performs as an interactive theatre artiste in rural villages, organises learning events and writes articles on agriculture and farmers’ rights in local languages.

The PKMT was formed in 2008 as a result of a series of discussions among powerless farmers and social and political activists who felt that an organised platform to voice their demands was essential for small-scale farmers facing social and economic constraints.

“We perform plays that enable us to interact with different communities. The theatre plays address issues that are part of the PKMT struggle, including feudalism and the impact of corporate agriculture. As a theater performer, I was selected as a participant in a training tilted, Interactive Theater for Influencing, in July 2019. The training provided technical knowledge and capacity building opportunities on skills required to influence communities to bring about progress in the society. Our skills of script-writing, communications and character-building were further enhanced in the seven-day residential training.” said Imam.

All seven members of the PUKAR theater group participated in the training which gave them networking and experience- sharing opportunities with other like-minded participants. The session on ‘team building’ and ‘inhibition breaking’ helped participants self-assess themselves and understand their pivotal and influential position in society. Participants learnt about stage directions, allowing the audience to grasp every performers’ act and the message they are conveying through their role plays.

“We met with other theater groups from Peshawar, Sindh and Islamabad. All the groups had different interactive skills to perform as we all engage with different kinds of audiences. The members of other groups shared the issues they highlighted through their plays and how they passed on the resolutions,” shared Imam.

On the last day of the training, participants developed action plans to further implement the learning and skills learnt during the training.

“Initially, we would randomly select issues and base our plays on those issues. After the training, we altered our strategy. We now plan a meeting to identify the common issues that are prevalent in the communities through meetings with community members and develop a script for the play accordingly to work together to rectify the challenges people are facing. CWSA has extended support in reviewing the scripts which we plan to avail,” expressed Imam.

A group exercise that engaged the training participants in planning a theater play with other members of the group allowed collaborative learning and practical experience-sharing through coordination among the members. Imam narrated,

“When we acted with other theater performers, we learnt to show strong facial expressions as that also largely impacts the deliverance of the message and not just the dialogues. This joint exercise helped in modifying our acting and delivery gestures in order to have an even stronger impact in the communities we perform.”

Boosting Performing Art Skills of Theatre Artistes working on Social Change

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative Awareness Program

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative organized an awareness session program based on the Agroecology farming and sustainable agriculture on village level at different districts of Sindh, Punjab and KP. In Sindh district Tando Mohammad Khan, Shikarpur and Ghotki, in Punjab district Multan and in KP district Haripur and Lower Dir the session were organized.

The session begins with the introduction of the team and the farmers. The team asks different questions from the farmers like who cultivate the land and which sort of cultivation is going on nowadays?

 

The participants replied that nowadays, we are using artificial means of production, which had chemicals in it, and we use chemical fertilizer in cultivation. Different topics of production and consumption were discussed with the help of pictures.

Unhealthy Production: The participants were told about the unhealthy food production that how modern machinery and chemicals are introduced to increase the production for example, breeding of cows by using artificial means, increasing of milk and meat of animals, increasing chemical spray, fertilizer, use of hybrid seeds and genetically modified seeds. The participants agree that they use the chemicals and machinery which results increase in diseases and unemployment.

Unhealthy Consumption: The participants were told about the unhealthy food like big companies use artificial methods in the preparation of food and are enforced on us for example, Potato chips, burgers, pizzas and unbalanced diet. The participants said that the junk food made by the companies has no energy, the threat of diseases increases and the food is also expensive. Capitalism increases class system. The rich influence on poor just because of this system. The working class is deprived of basic needs of life like food and health; we should not use these things.

Healthy Production: The participants were shown opposite mechanical and artificial method of production. The natural and traditional ways of farming, which includes milking, traditional way of cultivating pure and healthy food. According to our history, we use traditional seeds and eat pure food and live in a clean environment for centuries. The capitalists now capture the markets enforced farmers and labors into poverty.

Healthy Consumption: The participants said that the food from companies are unhealthy, the bread, Saag (local spinach), Lassi, butter, pure ghee are healthy foods. We should promote our own things, which we get through natural means.

Poverty and hunger! Why ? The adopting of chemical methods and an increase in production, the participants said that hunger, poverty and unemployment is increasing day by day. Continue reading

Say no to GM maize

March 01, 2019

Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is bad news and there is good news for our environmentalists, agriculturalists, healthcare givers and all those who care for the welfare of Pakistan. First, the bad news.

In January, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Cargill, the global food and agricultural producer with an annual revenue of $114.6 billion (2018), will be investing $200 million in Pakistan in the next two to five years. This announcement came after two top-ranking executives of Cargill met Prime Minister Imran Khan. It seemed innocuous, at least to people who know little about biotechnology giants.

One of them, Monsanto (now merged with Bayer), fathered the genetically modified organism (GMO) in 1983 which did terrible damage to numerous crops and farmers all over the world. As a result, we saw a spate of high-profile lawsuits in which the company admitted to having bribed officials abroad. At least 35 countries have now banned GMOs.

Obviously our political leadership is not well informed on such matters, nor is transparency its forte. Hence the Cargill heads’ meeting with the prime minister and their offer to create a huge number of jobs in Pakistan raised no scepticism in government circles.

Our experience with GM cotton has been disastrous.

But mercifully the Ministry of National Food Security & Research still has men of integrity and knowledge at its helm. It appears they have resisted this move. That has now prompted the American Business Council of Pakistan (representing 64 companies), a leading foreign investors’ group, to seek the prime minister’s help “to allow commercial cultivation of GM maize”. These American companies want the “obstacles” removed that are preventing them from implementing their controversial plans.

The good news is that the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek has issued a press release titled ‘Peasants Declare “NO TO GM MAIZE!”’ The party has categorically supported the ministry’s refusal to grant approval to genetically modified maize in Pakistan. The PKMT’s own position on GMOs and the seed companies has been clear for over a decade: they violate farmers’ collective rights to seed and will pauperise the small and landless tillers of the soil.

The Seed Association of Pakistan has also “sternly opposed” any commercialisation of GM maize in Pakistan. Civil society is also gearing up to resist any such move which will have a devastating effect on food security as well as agriculture. BT cotton should come as a lesson — that is, if we are willing to learn. Introducing BT cotton proved to be easy sailing in 2010. There was hardly any resistance from those in authority.

The Seed Law was changed by the National Assembly in 2015 to accommodate the seed multinationals. This was done at the behest of the US in spite of the fact that the 18th Amendment was in place and a courageous lawyer, Ahmad Rafay Alam, went to court on behalf of the Kissan Board to challenge its legality as well as the safety of BT cotton. The case has still to be decided.

BT cotton — Monsanto’s GM pet project — has proved to be a disaster for the country. Since its debut in Pakistan — by virtue of seeds smuggled from India in 2005 and later sanctioned by the government in 2010, cotton production has been falling. The figures cited have varied from source to source. It has of late been in the range of 10.5m and 11.5m bales. In 2004, cotton production stood at a record high of 14.1m bales (of 170kg each). Contrary to the government’s claim, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association says the weight of the bales is now 160kg each.

For years cotton production has failed to meet the target set by the government. This has adversely affected the national economy as cotton is the major element in the textile sector, the mainstay of Pakistan’s exports. BT cotton has also introduced new bugs in the cotton fields requiring greater use of pesticides, produced as can be expected by the biotech companies themselves. With Monsanto monopolising the seed market, nearly 88pc of the area under cotton cultivation is BT. The yield per acre has also fallen. All this adds to the cost of the inputs, causing farmers to switch to other crops.

It is horrifying to think of what the impact would be if maize, which is a thriving crop at present, is handed over to producers of GM maize. Has GM maize been thoroughly tested in our soil and climatic conditions? Without extensive research we cannot assess its impact on human health. We cannot afford to risk a rise in the prevalence of deadly diseases; the pesticide Roundup, which is required to be used, has been declared carcinogenic by WHO. This should be reason enough for the government to resist pressures from the biotech multinationals which are out to destroy our economy.

Let us learn from our own sordid experience of GMO cotton. Let sanity prevail. Besides, we cannot allow our peasantry to be destroyed. It is the backbone of our agriculture.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466871

Petitioner’s arguments concluded in Farmer’s Rights case

Press Release

Lahore, 21 February 2019: A Full Bench of the Lahore High Court heard arguments by Petitioners challenging the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016.

Advocate Sheraz Zaka, appearing on behalf of the NGO One-World, submitted that these laws were passed at the behest of multinational seed and GMO companies and were against the interests of farmers in Pakistan. He pointed out how these law prohibit the storage and sharing of seeds, which has been a fundamental feature of agriculture since the dawn of civilization. The new laws would require farmers and seed companies to register new verities with the Intellectual Property Organization in Islamabad.

Advocate Ahmad Rafay Alam appearing for NGO Sojhla for Social Change argued the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 could not have been passed by Parliament as it was a provincial subject. He pointed out the province of Punjab had taken measures to draft the Punjab Seed (Amendment) Bill and Punjab Farmer’s Rights Bill, and that the laws passed by Parliament usurped the powers of the provinces.  The laws passed by Parliament, it was submitted, failed to recognize Pakistan’s international obligations to protect Farmers’ Rights and also usurped provincial jurisdiction.  The petition filed by Sojhla for Social Change is supported by the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek.

A representative appearing on behalf of the Federation of Pakistan submitted the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 were passed keeping in view advancements in technology and the needs of seed dealers.

After hearing arguments, the Full Bench adjourned the hearing of the matter to 26 February 2019 for arguments by the Federation of Pakistan.

Peasants declare “NO TO GM MAIZE!”

Press Release

February 13, 2019

There has been news in print media, which indicates that the Ministry of National Food Security & Research has distanced itself from going ahead with approval of genetically modified maize in Pakistan; the first indication was the cancellation of Variety Evaluation Committee (VEC) by PARC, where it was expected that approval of commercial farming of GM corn varieties, developed by multinational seed companies may be granted.
Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) fully support the Ministry’s position, and reiterate their demand for a moratorium on genetically modified seeds and foods in the country. PKMT has opposed the introduction of genetically modified seeds in the country for the past decade as it violates farmers’ collective rights to seed. It needs to be recalled that granting of patent rights to mega-transnational corporations springs from the TRIPs agreement of the WTO.

The stand against GMOs by peasant organizations and activists globally and of course in Pakistan since inception of the WTO have shown ample proof of their soundness. The recent lawsuit against Monsanto won by a USA citizen suffering from cancer due to the company’s herbicide Roundup Ready clearly shows the critical health hazard to Pakistani famers who will be forced to use the herbicide along with GM seeds. In India, Monsanto’s Bt Cotton has shown to fail drastically; and the story is no different in Pakistan. Farmers are extremely unhappy with Bt Cotton, and the rapidly falling cotton yield is a testimony to the fact. Now, after BT Cotton failure, the company wants the maize seed market. There is no doubt that the company for past many years has been lobbying for commercial use of GM maize; if approved GM maize will be even worse than Bt Cotton since it cross pollinates and will rapidly destroy the local maize seed varieties. Pakistan’s per hectare production of maize was already showing an upward trend that is already ahead of many countries that are using genetically modified maize.

The coming years will show that our farmers will be totally dependent on extremely expensive GM maize seeds as is the case for cotton. It should be noted that we are allowing corporate control in our food crops; further it is well known that maize is used for ethanol production as well for commercial purposes in synthetic biology. All of this will exacerbate the extremely dire situation of hunger, malnutrition and environmental catastrophe, not to mention the increasing pauperization of small and landless farmers.

Press Conference was addressed by PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain, Provincial Coordinator KPK, Fayaz Ahmad and senior member Zahoor Joya, Tariq Mahmood, and Asif Khan.

Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek/PKMT

Urdu Press Release

Urdu Press Release GM Maize