Areas of Work

Innovation and Agriculture

Small-scale farmers are stewards of biodiversity; they maintain, adapt, improve and distribute plant varieties. The agro-biodiversity that they enhance provides a major contribution to health and nutrition. Who could be better placed to help the world cope with global environmental change and feed the world than over a billion small-scale farmers living, working and experimenting on the front lines of change?

Our work aims to ensure that innovation policy supports, rather than undermines, the critical role of small-scale farmers for ensuring local and global food security in biodiverse environments.

Ongoing Activities

  • Convening discussions about small-scale farmer innovation.
  • Commissioning research about different approaches to intellectual property protection of seeds and genetic resources, and impacts of these.
  • Promoting awareness of farmers’ and other stakeholders’ experience and interests in relation to intellectual property discussions that affect agriculture.
  • Improving understanding about the range of policy options available.
  • Undertaking human rights-based impact assessments of intellectual property protection for seeds.


Recent Timeline Events

March 2017

QUNO Food & Sustainability Programme Delivers Oral Statement at Human Rights Council

On March 8, 2017, the Clustered Interactive Dialogue (ID) on Sustainable Environment and on the Right to Food was held at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. During the event, both the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Mr. John Knox, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Ms. Hilal Elver, presented their findings.

QUNO’s Food & Sustainability Programme has been actively following UN Special Rapporteur Knox’ report on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In particular, last fall, we have submitted a written contribution to highlight the important role of agricultural biodiversity and small-scale farmers for the enjoyment of human rights.

In an oral statement, delivered by Nora Meier, Programme Assistant for Food & Sustainability at the Interactive Dialogue, we commended Mr. Knox for his report and thanked him for recognizing the explicit connection between agricultural biodiversity and global food and nutrition security and the ability to adapt to climate change and other abiotic and biotic stressors. Furthermore, we highlighted that industrial agriculture is the largest driver of biodiversity loss and causing harm to the health of people and our planet. We ended our oral statement by asking Mr. Knox: “What action should States take separately and jointly to support the role of small-scale farmers in managing agricultural biodiversity in order to mitigate and prevent the negative impact on enjoyment of human rights arising from loss of biodiversity?”

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February 2017

QUNO contributed to GAFSP Monitoring and Evaluation Plan

On February 17, 2017, QUNO’s Food & Sustainability Programme was asked to contribute to the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) document, which is intended to serve as a reference to all Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) stakeholders. The updated plan will guide all new projects in the GAFSP portfolio going forward: on what is required at each stage of the project cycle, including applying and reporting against the GAFSP indicators. GAFSP emphasizes the role of monitoring and evaluation and learning on their website (see link below). Their M&E Plan reflects the strong results-oriented nature of GAFSP fund.

QUNO commends GAFSP for its transparency in seeking input from a wide range of interested parties at this early stage in developing its plan. In her written contribution submitted to the Working Group, Programme Representative Susan H. Bragdon voiced concern with “using [crop] yields as an indicator with no modifier […].”   Industrial agriculture may have increased the yield of some crops but this has come with high environmental costs. Susan therefore suggested “if increase in yields is an indicator, it needs to be yield per units of water and energy and environmental externalities” […], such as Greenhouse Gas emissions, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss. Furthermore, Susan emphasized the importance of including “impact on diversity grown and consumed […]” Susan noted this is of particular importance in light of dietary simplification being a cause of ‘hidden hunger’ and the nutrition transition that underpins obesity. Throughout the M&E report, Susan also highlighted the need to explicitly include agricultural biodiversity, in-situ and on-farm, as being critical to the long-term sustainability of any intervention for food and nutrition security.

QUNO is looking forward to the publication of the finalized report and welcomed the opportunity to contribute. 

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February 2017

QUNO Attends 33rd IGC on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at WIPO

On February 27, 2017, QUNO Food & Sustainability Programme Assistant, Nora Meier, attended the opening of the 33rd session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. While the last two sessions were concerned with Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge respectively, this week’s meeting will focus on Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs). In particular, the member states will be debating the development of an international legal framework to protect TCEs and will intend to narrow existing gaps and reach common understanding on core issues. This includes the continuing negotiations around policy objectives, beneficiaries, scope of protection, administration of rights, and exceptions and limitations.

The morning session included a panel of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on the theme of “IGC Draft Articles on the Protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions: Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Perspectives”. Keynote speaker, Prof. Rebecca Tsosie (of Yaqui heritage), and the two respondents, Dr. Kanyinke Sena (member of the Maasai Peoples, Kenya) and Ms. Lucia Fernanda Inácio Belfort Sales (member of the Povo Kaingáng Peoples, Brazil), laid out their perspectives and cautioned the IGC, inter alia, that culture is not static and TCEs are constantly evolving. Therefore, applying a timeframe to the protection of TCEs would be contrary to their nature. Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of the Voluntary Fund for the credibility of the IGC as a whole as well as the negotiations being undertaken during the sessions. The Voluntary Fund, which depends on voluntary contributions of member states, has been depleted since 2014. Therefore, the IGC has not been able to provide direct funding for representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to participate in the IGC sessions.  

QUNO welcomes the opportunity to be part of this session and will continue to monitor the progress of the negotiations this week. It supports the statements made by the Chair and the Indigenous Caucus, which called on member states to contribute to the Voluntary Fund. 

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