An analysis of intellectual property rights in EU-ACP EPAs: unveiling the hidden threats to securing food supplies and conserving agricultural biodiversity
This briefing, written by Andrew Mushita, Zimbabwe, of the Community Technology Development Trust for the public advocacy project "African smallholders in focus - a voice in EU trade policy", provides an overview of how international rules on IPRs, as proposed to be included in the EPA texts, add significant challenges and threats to securing food supplies, food sovereignty and the sustainable use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity, especially in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
About this briefing
"Extending intellectual property rules globally will have wide ranging implications for the future control of food, many of which are still to be felt." Geoff Tansey, 2008
The EU intends to include new rules on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in already controversial and resisted Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). This is highly contentious because of the potential impacts on securing food supplies and conserving agricultural biodiversity. The European Union is demanding from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) new intellectual property standards beyond those already incorporated in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
These 'TRIPS-plus' standards are detrimental to local food security and communities whose livelihoods depend on agriculture as a source of income and who play a key role in the conservation of agricultural biodiversity. The livelihoods of these communities should not be compromised by EPAs. African, Caribbean and Pacific governments should reject the inclusion of TRIPS-plus provisions in EPAs. Any commitments in EPAs should be in line with the countries' level of development and not go beyond their current WTO obligations. The inclusion of IPRs in EPAs works against the principles that EPAs should maintain a development friendly orientation, contribute to the regional integration process and grant special and differential treatment to ACP countries.
The motivation for the EU to seek to include IPRs in the EPAs can be found in several EU policy documents which mandate that the EU should seek to strengthen IPR provisions in future bilateral agreements and the enforcement of existing commitments.
This briefing provides an overview of how international rules on IPRs, as proposed to be included in the EPA texts, add significant challenges and threats to securing food supplies, food sovereignty and the sustainable use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity, especially in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.