Plant Variety Protection Legislation and Farmers’ Rights in Developing Countries

Plant variety protection legislation in accordance with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is gaining importance in developing countries. This kind of legislation often neglects the existing informal seed systems and Farmers’ Rights. SDC supports APBREBES, a network of civil society organizations, to raise awareness and contribute to capacity building on alternative legislation that better reflect smallholders’ needs and practices.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security
Climate change and environment
Agricultural policy
01.10.2018 - 31.10.2023
CHF  320’000
Background In developing countries up to 80% of the seeds used by farmers originate from informal seed systems. Intellectual property rights with regard to seeds increasingly affect smallholder farmers and food sovereignty in developing countries through neglecting the existing informal seed systems and local customs. Such rights include patents and plant variety protection (PVP). The latter are gaining importance in developing countries. Bilateral free trade agreements, the G7 and others are pushing the legislation offered by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) , an intergovernmental organization with headquarters in Geneva. They neglect alternatives to UPOV which would better suit rural communities in many developing countries, although for WTO members such alternatives are allowed.
Objectives To operationalize Farmers’ Rights and achieve plant variety protection legislation in developing countries that is fair and equitable, appropriate to their agricultural conditions, reflects the smallholder farmers’ needs and practices, and promote Farmers’ Rights and agro-biodiversity.
Target groups Developing countries, in particular its policy makers, parliamentarians, civil society and farmer organisations; and UPOV Secretariat and UPOV Members.
Medium-term outcomes

Outcome 1: Increased awareness of governments and other relevant actors in developing countries on utilizing available policy space to develop relevant and appropriate plant variety protection legislation and implement Farmers’ Rights.
Outcome 2: Increased understanding of the operationalization of Farmers’ Rights, the impact of UPOV 91 as well as other alternative sui generis PVP systems. 

Outcome 3: Sensitize UPOV of issues and concerns relevant to developing countries including implementation of Farmers’ Rights.


Expected results:  

  1. Greater visibility and awareness of importance to implement Farmers’ Rights and alternative equitable PVP systems.
  2. Increased capacity of governments and other relevant stakeholders to engage and advocate for Farmers’ Rights and alternative PVP systems
  3. Civil society, farmer organizations, policy makers informed about developments concerning Farmers’ Rights and PVP
  4. Availability of in-depth research on operationalization of Farmers’ Rights & impact of UPOV 1991 and alternative sui generis systems.
  5. APBREBES analyses/proposals are considered in UPOV meetings


Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Swiss Non-profit Organisation
  • Other Swiss Non-profit Organisation

Coordination with other projects and actors

SDC Projects: Improving seed systems for smallholder food security and Strengthening Agro-biodiversity in Southern Africa

Biodiversity International and International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    320’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    270’000
Project phases Phase 1 01.10.2018 - 31.10.2023   (Current phase)