Thailand Might Be Required To Sacrifice Plant And Seed Sovereignty For The Sake Of Trade Agreement With EU
from the bad-deals dept
Techdirt wrote recently about African nations agreeing to a new plant variety treaty that will benefit Western seed companies at the expense of local farmers. Not surprisingly, those corporations want similar powers elsewhere, and a post on the biothai.org site from earlier this year reveals that the European Union is trying to use a so-called "free trade" agreement currently being discussed with Thailand to give it to them:
If Thailand accepts the intellectual property law in the course of the negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement of EU-Thai, Thailand would have to amend its 1999 Plant Varieties Protection Act to make Thai law consistent with the 1991 UPOV Convention.
The biothai.org post goes on to spell out how such a move is likely to affect Thai agriculture:
Thailand would have to amend its laws. It would have to abandon the principles of requesting prior authorization and benefits sharing in relation to the development of new plant varieties. This would mean that the seed companies, multinational bio-tech companies, and the big agri-businesses would not need to make a request nor share benefits when they exploit wild plants or widely available plants and local plants to develop new varieties.
That's a classic case of exploiting the plant commons without sharing any of the benefits that flow from doing so. Extended monopoly rights will make things even worse, and undermine traditional farming traditions:
Thailand would have to extend the period of corporate monopoly rights over new varieties from 12 years in most cases, to 20 years. In addition, it would open up a loophole in the law for private companies to prevent farmers from collecting seeds of the new varieties for planting in the next season, as well as preventing them from distributing and exchanging seeds with neighbours both inside and outside their community, which is a common cultural practice of farming communities.
Biothai.org believes that these changes would mean local farmers paying three times the current price for seeds, and that corporations would soon gain complete control of the seed business. Those are all depressingly familiar consequences of giving up plant and seed sovereignty, but the biothai.org story contains the following novel aspect:
Compliance with demands of the European Union or hasty government amendments to domestic laws allows the government to claim that Thailand did not amend any laws on account of the EU-Thai FTA negotiations.
That's noteworthy, because there's evidence that the European Commission is aiming to implement key US demands for TAFTA/TTIP before negotiations are completed so that it too can claim that it did not amend any laws on account of it. If the biothai.org post is correct, it's a sneaky trick that seems to be spreading.