Farmers rights include; the right to control and decide the future of genetic resources; the right to define the legal framework of property rights of these resources; the right to the means to conserve biodiversity and achieve food security, such as territorial rights, right to land, right to water and air; the right over resources and associated knowledge, traditional knowledge, respect for cultures and recognition that these are the basis of the creation of knowledge; the right to participate in the definition, elaboration, and execution of policies and programmes linked to genetic resources; the right to appropriate technology as well as participation in the design and management of research programmes; the right to define the control and handling of benefits derived from the use, conservation and management of these resources; the right to use, choose, store and freely exchange genetic resources; and, the right to develop models of sustainable agriculture that protect biodiversity and to influence the policies that support it.
Through their daily activities, experience and knowledge women have a major stake in protecting biological diversity. However, at national and local levels rural women are still hampered by a lack of rights to the resources they rely on to meet their needs. In general their rights of access to and control over local resources and national policies do not match their increasing responsibilities for food production and management of natural resources.
Farmers' rights are "rights arising from the past, present and future contribution of farmers in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources, particularly those in the centres of origin/diversity". The purpose of these rights is to "ensure full benefits to farmers and support the continuation of their contributions" (FAO, 1989).
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
2. The concept of farmers' rights was developed to counterbalance "formal" intellectual property rights (IPR). These formal mechanisms of recognition give little consideration to the fact that, in many cases, such innovations are only the most recent step in a long process of inventions that have been developed over millennia by generations of farmers, particularly women, throughout the world.
3. Farmers' rights should be internationally recognised. These rights would enable them to use, exchange and benefit from the seed their ancestors have nurtured and improved over centuries. A global plan of action for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture which aims at the conservation, sustainable utilisation of resources and better sharing of the benefits was agreed at an FAO conference in Leipzig in June 1996. But the plan is weak on farmers' rights, and countries in the North have made no commitments on funding. It is an international plan without international funds.