Patent-like claims on native potatoes spark protest by Peru’s indigenous farmers
ANDES, September 2013

Peruvian indigenous farmers have been angered by a government research agency, Peru’s National Agricultural Innovation Institute (INIA), that has claimed it owns intellectual property rights over more than fifty traditional varieties of potatoes bred in the Peruvian Andes. The potatoes were bred by indigenous farmers, who consider the claims to be an affront to their culture, knowledge and resources. In letters to the government, meetings, and a protest in the city of Cusco, the farmers have insisted that the claims be dropped entirely. Observers have been surprised by the move, in view of Peru’s relatively progressive legal protection for indigenous peoples’ rights. But the IP claims come under a new plant breeder’s rights law, which implements UPOV 1991. INIA argued that the IP claims are intended to recognize that the potatoes are Peruvian and to contribute to their legal protection. Indigenous farmers say that INIA’s IP claims are usurping native potatoes, and that the Institute has not responded to the farmers’ criticism that they, as creators and custodians of the native potatoes, are who rightfully should decide how the varieties are used. Download the communiqué [pdf] …

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