Farmers’ access to and rights over seeds are the very pillars of agriculture, and thus represent an essential component of food sovereignty. Three decades after the term farmers’ rights was first coined, there now exists a broad consensus that this new category of rights is historically grounded and imperative in the current context of the expansion of intellectual property rights (IPRs) over plant varieties. However, the issue of their realization has proven so thorny that even researchers and activists who are sympathetic to farmers’ rights now express growing skepticism regarding their usefulness. In this article, I explore this debate through a case study of India’s unique Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act. Based on an analysis of advances and setbacks in implementing the PPV&FR Act and a discussion of other relevant pieces of legislation, I argue that the politics of biodiversity and IPRs in India in recent years has been characteristic of the cunning state, and that this has seriously compromised the meaningful implementation of farmers’ rights.
Karine Preschard is a fostdoctoral Fellow, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. Karine Peschard holds a PhD in anthropology from McGill University (2010). Her doctoral thesis examines the controversy over agricultural biotechnology in Brazil, looking more specifically at resistance to transgenic seeds among small farmers in Southern Brazil. She is currently conducting comparative research on farmers’ rights in Brazil and India. Her research interests are centered on global capital, contemporary peasant movements, food sovereignty, agricultural biotechnology, intellectual property rights and biodiversity.
Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, 14 - 15 September, New Haven.