Farmers’ Crop Varieties and Farmers’ Rights

Farmers’ Crop Varieties and Farmers’ Rights

A new book in the Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity series examines policies that aim to increase the share of benefits that farmers receive when others use the crop varieties that they have developed and managed.

A new book, Farmers’ Crop Varieties and Farmers’ Rights, examines crop plant varieties developed by local farmers – commonly referred to as farmers’ varieties – and policies to increase the share of benefits farmers receive from the use of those varieties.

“Over the course of the last 50 years there has been a growing appreciation on the part of different stakeholders including biologists, activists and policymakers of the important role that farmers play in the development and conservation of crop genetic diversity and the contribution of that diversity to agro-ecosystem resilience and food security”, says Michael Halewood, Head of Policy Unit, Bioversity International, and editor of the book.

The book focuses on two fundamental and interlinked questions. The first question is ‘how do farmer management practices – along with other factors such as environment and the breeding systems of plants – affect the evolution and maintenance of discrete farmers’ varieties?’ The second question is ‘how can policies that depend on being able to identify discrete plant varieties accommodate the agricultural realities associated with the generation, use and maintenance of farmers’ varieties?’

The book includes contributions from agronomists, anthropologists, geneticists, biologists, plant breeders, lawyers, development practitioners, activists and farmers. It presents case studies from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe where, in response to a diversity of contributing factors, there have been efforts to develop policies that provide incentives or rewards to farmers as stewards of farmers’ varieties in ways that are sensitive to the cultural, taxonomic and legal complexities involved. The book situates these initiatives in the context of the evolving discourse and definition of ‘farmers' rights’, presenting insights for future policy initiatives.

To order the book, please visit the publisher website. Please note that the book will be available free to download from the Bioversity International website in January 2017.


Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity, a book series published by Earthscan/Routledge in association with Bioversity International, is the only series of its kind devoted to reviewing the current state of knowledge on agricultural biodiversity. The series identifies research gaps, summarizes lessons learned and offers recommendations for future research and development planning. Issues range from conservation biology of genetic resources through social sciences to policy and legal aspects.