Activists reject ratification of seed patent in ASEAN RCEP

Jakarta Post | 17 October 2016

Activists reject ratification of seed patent in ASEAN RCEP

Anton Hermansyah

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An activist group is calling on the government to not ratify the ASEAN Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) clause on International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1991, saying that it will increase global corporations’ monopolistic control over small farmers.

According to Indonesian Farmers Alliance Chairman Muhammad Nurdin, the UPOV 91 obliges a seed patent to be protected for 20 to 25 years. He is worried that the trade partners were pushing ASEAN members to ratify UPOV 91 in the RCEP forum.

"UPOV 91 may prohibit farmers from developing their own seeds in the name of [preventing] intellectual rights infringement," Nurdin said in a discussion in Jakarta on Sunday, adding that the UPOV 91 ratification would worsen corporate domination as five multinational companies currently dominated 90 percent of the world’s seed trade.

ASEAN countries and their six main trade partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand) are holding the 14th round of RCEP discussions in Tianjin, China from Oct. 17 to Oct. 22.

Agricultural NGO Bina Desa spokesperson Achmad Yakub said the Constitutional Court had given protection to small farmers, indigenous communities and farmers’ organizations to develop their own seeds in 2013

"But if the government ratifies UPOV 91, our law and rules will be revised, including the Constitutional Court’s decision," he said.