Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Peruvian Agreement Protects Indigenous Potato Strains

Expand Messages
  • ghwelker
    Potato Capital of the World Offers Up New Recipe Sanjay Suri http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=27069 Peru gave the world the potato, and the potato now
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      Potato Capital of the World Offers Up New Recipe

      Sanjay Suri

      http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=27069

      Peru gave the world the potato, and the potato now offers indigenous
      people around the world a new recipe for securing their rights.

      LONDON, Jan 18 (IPS) - Peru gave the world the potato, and the potato
      now offers indigenous people around the world a new recipe for
      securing their rights.

      A new agreement between six indigenous communities and the
      International Potato Centre in Cusco, Peru, heart of the old Inca
      civilisation in the Andes mountains of Latin America, recognises the
      right of these communities over the unique potato strains that they
      have developed and grown.

      "No, this does not mean that these communities will now procure
      patents over these varieties of potato," Alejandro Argumedo, associate
      director of the Association for Nature and Sustainable Development
      (ANDES), a Cusco-based civil society group led by indigenous peoples,
      told IPS.

      "These indigenous people are against patents," Argumedo explained.
      "They represent a model of property that does not fit into their
      worldview. Indigenous people are used to exchanging and sharing
      information in open ways. But this means a legal agreement that no one
      else can claim intellectual property rights over their knowledge."

      The implications can be far-reaching, Argumedo said. Whether it is
      varieties of corn in Mexico or basmati rice in India, the agreement
      over these potatoes "is a first legal sign of the restoration of
      rights that indigenous people once had."

      Peru would of course use potatoes to break new ground; it is the
      official centre of the world of potatoes.

      "Potatoes are important for us as food but also as a cultural symbol,"
      Argumedo said. "We have co-evolved with potatoes. Peru gave the potato
      to the world, they are so important in marriage and religious
      ceremonies. They mean so much in Andean culture and iconography that
      goes back thousands of years."

      The Andes region in and around Peru has more than 2,000 varieties of
      potato, among more than 4,000 varieties around the world. A potato
      park in Cusco produces about 700 varieties of potato.

      ANDES helped broker the agreement with the International Potato
      Centre, one of 15 consultative groups for international agricultural
      research centres responsible for the world's largest agro-biodiversity
      gene bank collections.

      The eminent reputation of the centre gives strong international weight
      to the agreement. Although it does not involve a government, it is
      legal under Peruvian law.

      The new agreement "means that Andean communities can unlock the potato
      gene bank and repatriate biological diversity to farming communities
      and the natural environment for local and global benefit," ANDES said
      in a statement Tuesday.

      Though excluded and often oppressed, indigenous peoples are the
      traditional custodians of biodiversity, and this agreement recognises
      that "the conservation, sustainable use and development of maximum
      agro-biodiversity is of vital importance in order to improve the
      nutrition, health and other needs of the growing global population,"
      ANDES says.

      Several policy analysts and civil society campaigners are preparing to
      push for similar initiatives at a meeting of the Convention on
      Biological Diversity to be held in Bangkok next month, and at a World
      Intellectual Property Organisation meeting to be held in Geneva in June.

      The new agreement, called the "agreement on the repatriation,
      restoration and monitoring of agro-biodivisity of native potatoes and
      associated community knowledge systems", will challenge the trend of
      "privatising genetic resources and indigenous knowledge which has seen
      seed gene banks swallowed up by unaccountable research bodies and
      corporations, threatening local livelihoods and cultural ways of
      life," ANDES said in its statement.

      ANDES campaigned for the agreement with considerable support from the
      London-based International Institute for Environment and Development
      (IIED) and the government of the Netherlands.

      "Civil society groups, particularly those led by indigenous peoples,
      should not be dictated to, but they do need greater support from the
      rich countries," Dr Michel Pimbert, director of the sustainable
      agriculture and rural livelihoods programme at IIED, said in a statement.

      "Groundbreaking agreements, like this example in Peru, require
      negotiation with all parties on an equal footing," he said, "which
      means boosting the capacity of local indigenous communities to argue
      their case for access to the genetic resources they helped develop in
      the first place."
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.