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The Arusha Protocol on plant varieties protection: balancing breeders' and farmers' rights for food security in Africa

Tom Kabau and Faith Cheruiyot

Keywords: Africa; ARIPO; Arusha Protocol; food security; farmers' rights; intellectual property; plant breeders' rights

The adoption of the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (Arusha Protocol) in 2015 created a harmonized regional legal mechanism for the protection of plant breeders’ rights (PBRs) in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) member states. Regrettably, the Arusha Protocol, which is to enter into force after the requisite ratifications, reaffirms the often criticized International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of 1991 (UPOV 1991) in its extensive limitation of the traditional farmers’ rights to freely save, replant and exchange seeds of protected plant varieties, while liberally conceptualizing PBRs. The stated farmers’ rights are essential for the food security of the developing ARIPO member states, as their agriculture is predominantly characterized by impoverished small-scale farmers who rely on informal seed exchanges. On that basis, this article is premised on the view that the legal regime for plant varieties protection established under the Arusha Protocol is inappropriate for ARIPO members as it fails to balance breeders’ and farmers’ rights in a manner that promotes food security. It proceeds to evaluate the appropriate approach that can suitably balance breeders’ and farmers’ rights for the purposes of promoting food security in Africa.

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