Contesting Privatization: NGOs and Farmers’ Rights in the African Model Law. Global Environmental Politics. Vol. 7, No. 1 (February, 2007).


The development of the concept of farmers’ rights in the Food and Agriculture Organization, and its adoption by the African Union as a counterbalance to the private property rights of plant breeders, highlights the divisiveness of the question of ownership in biodiversity and biotechnology. In this paper, I explore the development of the African Model Law, a regional regime intended to promote indigenous control over local biodiversity. Specifically, I contend that key non-governmental organizations were able to draw on African efforts and concerns regarding conceptions of private property rights embodied in international agreements, framing the question of farmers’ rights in a way that spoke to the African experience. Farmers’ rights thus came to be a focal point for African negotiators at international discussions on intellectual property rights and biodiversity, enabling Africa to take a key role in the articulation of alternatives to the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement.

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