This webinar will examine the links between Farmers’ Rights (as established in the ITPGRFA) and related international treaties alongside the right to food and gender perspectives on Farmers’ Rights.
Right to Food
I recommend that ALIC put forward that investment in land should be subject to a comprehensive human rights impact assessment and that all on-going effects, responsibilities, and duties be continuously monitored. The task would then be to spell out what a comprehensive human rights report should comprise.
This commentary considers the access to food component of the draft UNIDROIT/FAO/IFAD Legal Guide on Agricultural Land Investment Contracts (Guide) and voices its silence on intellectual property rights (IPRs). In the past decade, foreign investors have increased the number of investments in the long-term lease of arable land, especially in Africa, and in the Global South, generally. The reasons for the choice of these locations include the availability of large portions of inexpensive agricultural land, inexpensive local labour and favourable climatic conditions for crop production. The Guide proposes more responsible investments in agriculture from public and private sector investors as a way to achieve, inter alia ‘No Poverty’ and ‘Zero Hunger’ (Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2).
Unfortunately, the Guide appears to be blind to the way in which conceiving land and tenure rights in the context of global vale chains can multiply the relevant spaces of engagement and challenges the traditional notion of jurisdictional spaces and fragmentation. Luckily, communities, activists and lawyers acting on the ground have come to this realization long ago, and I believe that they will find the best way to use a document that aims to normalize large-scale investments but can also open new interesting spaces for political and legal resistance.
By bringing forward this interlegal sensibility, ALIC invites the investor to think of their own best interest in broad term and to take the time to understand already-existing, pluralist socio-legal expectations and practices. It also implicitly reminds the investor to take the time to build a relationship with local communities that is buttressed by an iterative understanding of fairness (a core tenet of commercial law). Without such a relationship and appropriate due diligence, ALIC in effect recommends to the investor and the local community to not pursue the deal – no one benefits from a land transaction that is only made possible by disrupting local people’s lives or dislocating them from their homeland.
It is crucial to incorporate both a balanced approach and a human rights perspective into the negotiations on intellectual property in the context of the AfCFTA. In this regard, it should be noted that the TRIPS Agreement gives countries considerable flexibility with regard to how they can choose to protect plants and new plant varieties because Article 27(3)(b) of the TRIPS Agreement permits countries to exclude plants from patentability although it requires them to provide protection for plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof.