Understanding of the farmers’ privilege concept by smallholder farmers in South Africa
Legislation on plant breeders’ rights – the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 1976 (Act No. 15 of 1976) – currently is being reviewed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. This legislation provides for farmers’ privilege, which is one of the exceptions to plant breeders’ rights. It allows farmers to save seed of protected varieties for their own use. Farmers’ privilege, and particularly its impact on smallholder farmers in developing countries, is a widely debated issue. During the public consultation process, several comments proposing amendments to the farmers’ privilege provision were received from various stakeholders. However, no comments were received from the smallholder farmers who may be directly impacted by this provision. This pilot study was undertaken to assess the understanding of the farmers’ privilege concept by smallholder farmers from the historically disadvantaged communities and their current practices with regard to seed saving. The results showed that the majority of the smallholder farmers were not aware of the existence of the legislation on plant breeders’ rights and therefore do not understand the farmers’ privilege concept and its implications. They also did not know whether the varieties they were using were protected by plant breeders’ rights or not. Little information has been published on the impact of plant breeders’ rights in South Africa in general. We hope that this study might inform policy decisions on matters related to plant breeders’ rights and the farmers’ privilege.
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