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Farmers, experts urge to improve Plant Breeders Rights Bill.

ISLAMABAD -- Speakers at a seminar on Thursday called upon the political forces and parliamentarians to review and improve the Plant Breeders Rights Bill 2010 by removing the flaws identified in the bill taking on board all relevant stakeholders and civil society organizations.

The participants of the moot representing the civil society organizations and small farmers, demanded that the incumbent National Assembly had a very limited time to consider the proposed PBR Bill 2010 and if passed in haste it would have drastic implications for the small farmers and the agriculture sector.

The speakers asked the government to postpone the bill and let it be considered by the next National Assembly after the upcoming elections. The policy seminar was aimed at addressing the conflict emerging between farmers community, civil society and seed producing companies after introduction of the PBR bill in the parliament.

The moot titled 'Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) Bill 2010' was held under the aegis of Centre for Culture and Development (C2D), Sustainable Agriculture Action Group (SAAG), Pothohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) and Lok Saanjh Foundation in collaboration with the ActionAid Pakistan.

The Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) Bill 2010 has been pending for contemplation in the National Assembly for the last few years and it has received renewed attention from the government after formation of Intellectual Property Organization (IPO) as the regulator of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in Pakistan.

Dr. Shahid Zia, Executive Director, Lok Saanjh Foundation, gave a brief overview of the PBR legislation in Pakistan. He said that seed monopolies were expected under the original and existing version of the PBR Bill. He added that the present proposed bill was a replication or the reorganization of the previous draft of 1998 with some cosmetic changes.

"Under the proposed legislation, farmers centuries old practice of exchange, sharing and reusing seeds may be crippled. There is a need to further look into the clauses of the PBR Bill to make it more farmers friendlier than to safeguard the concerns of the seed companies," he added.

He stressed the need for the inclusion of damage clause in favour of farmers like the plant breeders or seed companies.

He lamented the fact that damage clause for the benefit of the farmers was not inserted which was widely demanded by the farmers and civil society whereas the demand of deletion of damage clause by the seed giants was accepted. He further demanded that the exceptions included in the PBR Bill should be accepted as a right of the farmers.

Mushtaq Gaddi, Lecturer, NIPS, Quaid-a-Azam University highlighted the PBR bill in the perspective of political economy and said that the bill was an attempt to give rights to the multi-national corporations to exploit people and the resources of the third world. He termed the bill a form of neo-imperialism.

He said that the government must be urged not to pass the bill without ensuring rights of the farmers community. The participants appreciated the efforts of ActionAid-Pakistan for initiating the debate on the PBR, a crucial piece of legislation in the context of food security in Pakistan. They said that the issue needs to be debated further and farmers must be consulted in this regard.

Saeed Iqbal, Certification Officer, Federal seed certification and Registration Department argued that the PBR legislation was in pursuance of Pakistan as a signatory of WTO and TRIPS. It would help to protect and promote the research for the innovation and new varieties of seeds and plants for improved per acre yields, he added.

He further maintained that the PBR legislation would help to achieve the goals of food security in Pakistan. He added that the proposed legislation was important as it would regulate illegal practices of seed mafia and companies and their monopolies in the country.

Sameena Nazir, Executive Director, PODA appreciated the consortia of organizers for holding the consultation. She said agriculture was impossible without the contribution of women farmers. However, the proposed legislation does not refer to the concerns and requirements of the female farmers.

Dr. Nadeem Omar Tarar, Director, NCA Rawalpindi, said that passing the bill without ensuring bio-safety guidelines and farmers rights would be disastrous for the small farmers community in particular and the agriculture sector in general.

He further added that all traditional knowledge and genetic resources were required to be properly documented and exclusive rights of the people must be conceded over indigenous knowledge. He also pointed out that Convention on Bio-diversity, of which Pakistan is one of the signatories, is referred selectively whereas all clauses which contain the rights of the people over indigenous resources are usually not quoted.
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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 28, 2012
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