Timeline

Innovation and Agriculture

We promote balanced and informed discussion about how to support the innovative activities of small-scale farmers
January 2017

QUNO Attended the Annual General Assembly (AGA) of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development in Brussels on 1-2 February 2017

QUNO’s Food and Sustainability (F&S) programme representative Susan H. Bragdon attended the AGA this year to discuss the Agenda 2030 and how the new framework of global development priorities can be supported to achieve food and nutrition security for all.

Today, half the world’s food is produced by 1.5 billion small-scale farmers. However, while small-scale farmers contribute so much to global food security, they are often poor or very poor, and food insecure themselves. Of the hundreds of millions that go hungry daily (almost 1 billion), millions are rural, poor small-scale farmers. Decline in small-scale farmer livelihoods has increased rural-urban migration rates, as 54 percent of the world population now lives in urban areas, which is reducing food production and eroding food security (UNDESA, 2014).

QUNO therefore appreciated the opportunity to participate in the AGA, in particular in the discussions around the role of agriculture considering the new SDGs and the challenges of climate change as they relate to food security, small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity. 

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January 2017

QUNO Attended 16th Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Rome 30 January – 3 February 2017

QUNO’s Food and Sustainability (F&S) programme representative Susan H. Bragdon attended the 16th regular session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture at the FAO headquarters in Rome from 30 January to 3 February 2017. She closely followed the session, regional consultations, and side events as well as the one-day special event on the Contribution of Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture to Resilience.

The F&S programme team welcomed the opportunity to attend this event and was encouraged by the cross-sectorial work that has been done as well as by the reports and plans of action on plant genetic resources that have been produced.  

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October 2016

QUNO to Co-Host Side Event at Committee on World Food Security in Rome

On the occasion of the CFS 43 in Rome next week, QUNO will co-host a side event with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The side event is entitled ‘Who Will and How Will We Feed Humanity’ and will be moderated by QUNO’s Food and Sustainability representative Susan Bragdon.

A panel of four speakers, representing the private sector, civil society and farmers, will be trying to find complementarity between contrasting approaches to achieving food security and nutrition. Discussions around how to achieve food security and nutrition and the related targets of Agenda 2030 are often polarized — and charged. How core challenges are framed, often rooted in a particular ideology or perspective, lead to different and sometimes contrasting approaches to solving them. Discussions on the role of trade and the value of on-farm innovation and biodiversity will be enriched as a result and lead to practical outcomes.

Panelists will describe how their organizations contribute to the food security of hypothetical nations, how their interventions articulate with one another, and identify appropriate roles for governments. The side-event will be opened by Manuel Flury, Co-Head of the Global Programme Food Security at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

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June 2016

QUNO releases policy brief on intellectual property and small-scale farmer innovation

The relationship between intellectual property (IP) and small-scale farmer innovation is far from straightforward. The majority of innovation in agriculture is not driven by the promise of exclusionary rights that some IP tools afford — it takes place on the farm and is a collaborative and incremental process, the outcomes of which cannot be attributed to individual rights holders.

However some IP tools – when carefully selected and adapted to suit domestic circumstances – may have the potential to help drive small-scale farmer innovation or, at minimum, allow the space for it to occur unimpeded.

This paper discusses how alternative or sui generis plant variety protection systems, collective and certification trademarks, and geographical indications may encourage on-farm innovation.

On the other hand, IP tools that are more conventionally believed to incentivise innovation in agriculture (i.e. patents, UPOV-style plant variety protection systems, and less commonly trade secrets) have the potential to impede on-farm innovation.

Policy makers at the national level should take into account the value of small-scale farmer innovation for national and global food security when developing national food security strategies, and take advantage of the flexibilities allowed under the WTO TRIPS Agreement when implementing IP legislation that reflects the realities of domestic agricultural sectors.

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April 2016

Research paper: Access to seeds: lessons from the access to medicines debate

Access to seeds.jpg

This new research paper considers what lessons the access to medicines debate provides for those concerned with protecting farmers’ access to seeds. Taking the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as its point of departure, this paper explores implications for interested parties at the international and national levels, as well as for multilateral institutions themselves.

Key messages include: 

1) The importance of public opinion and pragmatic coalition-building in raising the political capital to deal with sensitive negotiating topics;

2) The need for national governments to use TRIPS flexibilities in the same way that many already have for safeguarding access to medicines;

3) The urgent need for sustained, productive collaboration between relevant multilateral institutions to clarify the governance structure for plant genetic resources. By doing so they can help ensure farmers' continued freedom to experiment with, store, exchange and re-use seed - essential practices for maintaining biodiversity and achieving food security.

The paper, prepared by QUNO Programme Assistant Patrick Endall (Food & Sustainability, Climate Change) is available here, or by clicking on the link below.

All QUNO work is published under a Creative Commons license.

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February 2016

QUNO presents at international colloquium on global governance

On 4-5 February, QUNO's Food & Sustainability representative travelled to The Hague, Netherlands, to attend and present at a colloquium at the International Institute of Social Studies. Susan was among a diverse set of speakers examining the intersections between global governance and politics, climate justice and agrarian / social justice.

Her paper calls for a reinvigoration of the public sector, with a particular focus on food security, small-scale farmers and intellectual property rules.

 

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January 2016

VIDEO: Susan Bragdon talks about our Food & Sustainability programme

In this video, which is excerpted from a longer film shown at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) World Plenary Meeting held in Peru in January 2016, Susan Bragdon discusses the work of our Food & Sustainabilty programme. 

The Food & Sustainability programme of the Quaker United Nations Office addresses the complex and intertwined issues of trade and innovation policy and how they relate to poverty, hunger and food insecurity. We look at these issues with a particular focus on small-scale farmers, including fisherfolk, forest dwellers and pastoralists, a critical yet largely unheard voice in trade and innovation policy-making. Our work is collaborative, providing the space where it is safe to think, share and explore creative alternatives to a food system that does not work for the majority of the world’s population. 

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January 2016

QUNO Food & Sustainability publications now available in four languages

Three of QUNO's recent policy briefs from the Food & Sustainability programme are now available online in up to four languages. All QUNO work is published under a Creative Commons license. Copies of all QUNO publications can be downloaded free by following the links below, while hard copies are available on request to quno@quno.ch.

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January 2016

QUNO demonstrates policy tool at Global Donor Platform for Rural Development

Over the past year, QUNO has been developing an interactive tool to help shape coherent food security and trade policies. Attending the Global Donor Platform's annual event in Geneva this week gave us the opportunity to present our progress and discuss ways of taking it forward with a broad variety of grant-giving institutions.

Each year the Donor Platform for Rural Development selects what they believe will be the most relevant topic to them in the coming year. For 2016 the focus is on policy coherence between trade and rural development, a theme that resonates strongly with our Food & Sustainability work. We were therefore able to constructively intervene in sessions, while gaining a better understanding of the issues as-seen from a donor perspective.

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December 2015

Policy Brief: Small-scale farmer innovation

This policy brief consolidates lessons learned from two sources:

The key message arising from both is that small-scale farmer innovation systems are unique relative to more ‘formal’ agricultural innovation systems. For this reason, the types of policies that are put in place to encourage innovation in agriculture require a fundamental reconsideration.

Read the brief in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, by clicking the links below.

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November 2015

New Report: Small-scale farmer innovation systems - a review of the literature

Small-scale farmer innovation systems have remained an abstract and elusive concept - this document seeks clarification by presenting a review of the academic literature on the subject.

In it, we call for further evidence-based research documenting small-scale farmers' contributions to food security, livelihood improvement and agro-ecosystem resilience. Through this, we hope small-scale farmers may become more visible in policymaking and more supported within national innovation strategies.

Read the full report below:

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October 2015

Small-scale Farmer Innovation Systems: Report on the First Expert Consultation 26-27 May 2015 in Geneva

In May 2015, QUNO convened a small expert consultation in Geneva to discuss the emerging concept of small-scale farmer innovation systems. The event brought together 19 participants from across 12 countries, providing a platform for discussing first-hand experiences of innovation at this level. The experience of one of the attendees - Joe Ouko, a farmer from Kenya, features in the 93rd edition of Quaker News ('Starting small', p.11): http://issuu.com/quakers-in-britain/docs/quaker_news_93_4f36b9a9828ae7/1 

Over the course of the two days, detailed information was shared, gaps highlighted, working relationships established and future directions explored. The report, which can be accessed by clicking the link below, represents a synthesis of what was discussed; something that will be valuable in informing QUNO’s work moving forward.

Read the report, as well as a literature review of small-scale farmer innovation systems, below:

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August 2015

Policy Brief: Realizing the right to food in an era of climate change

Agriculture is a major contributor to anthropogenic climate change, and in turn climate change threatens the viability of food production around the world. The spread of capital- and technology-intensive 'industrial' agriculture in the modern era has been accompanied by an erosion of on-farm genetic diversity, a loss of local knowledge, and the abandonment of traditional farming practices. This undermines our capacity to
adapt to already-changing climatic conditions.

This report highlights the role of small-scale farmers as innovators and custodians of food system diversity, a critical resource in ensuring the realization of the right to food in an era of climate change. Taking an innovation systems perspective, it proposes a new framework for the design of collaborative agricultural research projects and agendas, and notes the need for pro-active policy measures in creating an enabling environment for such partnerships.

The report is available for download in English and Chinese, by clicking on the link below.

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June 2015

QUNO presents at WIPO seminar on Intellectual Property Rights, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions

The issue of genetic resources or traditional knowledge that are shared among different countries was discussed at a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) seminar last week. The seminar took place from 23-25 June at WIPO headquarters in Geneva. Susan Bragdon, QUNO's Food and Sustainability Representative, was asked to talk about other international legal instruments that relate to genetic resources and intellectual property, in particular to discuss the story behind the treaties; how they came to be, what they say and the challenges presented by the regime complex.

The panel was webcast live and can be viewed at the below URL. Susan’s talk can by selecting the afternoon session of 24 June. She is the first speaker after the moderator’s introduction. 

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May 2015

QUNO holds first expert consultation on small-scale farmer innovation

From the 26th – 27th May, QUNO held its first expert consultation on small-scale farmer innovation in biodiverse food systems. 16 professionals, including academics, development practitioners, civil society actors, small-scale farmers and UN officials, from 12 different countries (such as Peru, Zimbabwe, China and Sri Lanka) attended the consultation, which took place at the Château de Bossey near Geneva. For one participant, a Kenyan farmer-innovator, the trip represented his first time outside of Africa.

The consultation, similar in form to those QUNO has held for its agricultural trade and investment work strand, sought to move beyond QUNO’s traditional focus on intellectual property to get to the heart of on-farm innovation. What drives small-scale farmers to innovate? What can impede them? What role can public policy play in developing a supportive environment for such innovation? The discussion yielded a variety of proposals for potential ways forward, both for QUNO and the group as a whole.

The paper detailing the outcomes of this consultation can be found below.

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February 2014

Susan Bragdon joins QUNO Geneva as Representative for Food and Sustainability

Susan Bragdon joined QUNO Geneva on 1 February as Representative, Food and Sustainability to lead our work on intellectual property of plants and on a new framework for trade and investment in agriculture. Susan, trained as a resource ecologist and patent lawyer, brings in depth experience of UN agencies and other international organisations and negotiations, especially on intellectual property of plants and biodiversity. Susan, presently based in Portland, Oregon, will work initially as a consultant before relocating to Geneva later this year.

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February 2014

QUNO held side-event panel discussion: Small-scale farmers, innovation and the competition of international regimes?

Small-scale farmer innovation plays an essential role in food security. During this panel discussion, speakers and participants considered how to design a coherent legal regime that supports all types of innovation and management systems, including those of small-scale farmers. Speakers included: Susan Bragdon, QUNO; Shakeel Bhatti, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; Isabel Lopez Noriega, Bioversity International; and Antony Taubman, World Trade Organization. The event was moderated by QUNO's Caroline Dommen.

The session built on QUNO’s 2013 Briefing Note, "Small-scale farmers - The missing element in the WIPO-IGC Draft Articles on Genetic Resources" and is part of ongoing QUNO work on intellectual property, genetic resources and food. 

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January 2014

Developing country sui generis options for plant variety protection

Photo Credit: Martin Kunz

These briefing papers on sui generis options for plant variety protection (PVP) are to encourage and support governmental officials and others who wish to develop a PVP system that matches their country’s needs. These briefing papers are the third and fourth in a series on intellectual property, food and agriculture.

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September 2012

Panel Discussion on Intellectual Property in Agriculture at the World Trade Organization Public Forum in Geneva

A QUNO-IIED (Quaker UN Office - International Institute for Environment and Development) panel at the World Trade Organisation Public Forum in Geneva, September 2012 explored the complex international landscape on intellectual property relating to agriculture. The panel considered the main features of the international intellectual property framework through the following questions:

  • Does the intellectual property system stimulate innovation?
  • How does it meet the needs of farmers and consumers?
  • In what directions is it likely to evolve?
  • Are new rules or new processes needed to ensure it responds to changing farming needs?

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