Since 2001, GRAIN has been tracking how so-called free trade agreements (FTAs), negotiated largely in secret, outside the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are being used to go beyond existing international standards on the patenting of life forms. In this report, we provide an update on the FTAs that are legalising corporate theft and threatening farmers’ ability to save, produce and exchange seeds around the world.
Signed in 1994, the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was the first treaty to impose global standards on intellectual property or legal ownership of plants, animals and microorganisms, bolstered by an enforcement mechanism. Representatives of the US seed and biotech industry brought the issue into the trade talks. Their goal? To ensure that companies like Monsanto, Dow and Pioneer, which spend money on plant breeding to bring new seeds to market, can recoup their investment and make a profit by preventing farmers from re-using those seeds—obligating them to purchase seeds from corporations year after year.