s/r home  | issues  | authors  | 16 contents

Synthesis/Regeneration 16   (Summer 1998)

Building & strengthening our sui generis rights

The Thammasat Resolution

We, 45 representatives of indigenous, peasant, non-governmental, academic and governmental organizations from 19 countries, came together on December 1-6, 1997 at Thammasat campus just outside Bangkok, Thailand, for an international seminar on Sui Generis Rights co-organized by Biothai and GRAIN. We met to study, assess and develop our response to the increasing privatization of biodiversity and local knowledge, especially as driven by the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and resulting legislation at the regional and national levels. We focused in particular on the sui generis rights option for intellectual property over plant varieties as imposed on all WTO member states by the TRIPS Agreement, as well as on other international agreements related to biodiversity such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

In Thai, "Thammasat" means "knowledge of nature." It also means "justice." The name of our venue is central to us. Indigenous peoples, farmers and local communities have, over millennia, nurtured and developed the biodiversity on which humanity now depends. They have been wisely using their knowledge of nature to create sustainable food and health systems based on sharing their knowledge and biodiversity with others. Such community systems are being destroyed by economic development under the guise of free trade, Green Revolution agriculture and the new biotechnologies, and globalization. They are also being destroyed by the rampant pirating and monopolization of biodiversity and related knowledge through the extension of intellectual property rights (IPR) to life forms.

Perhaps no country exemplifies our concerns about WTO-enshrined globalization as our host country. At the time we were meeting, Thailand-and much of the rest of Southeast and East Asia-is going through a profound crisis resulting from years of economic growth founded upon fleeting speculative investment. The currency tailspin which started last July is accompanied by destabilization of markets, loss of employment and cutting of public spending, and results in a clear loss of control over our own economies and livelihoods with the IMF taking the steering wheel.

The WTO TRIPS Agreement obliges developing countries to provide some form of IPR on plant varieties by the year 2000. This may be done by patents or by some "sui generis" rights system-meaning, in Latin, a system "of its own kind." In 1999, one year before implementation in the developing countries, this provision will be reviewed and we are preparing ourselves for this review.

We reaffirm our total and frontal opposition to the extension of intellectual property rights to life forms, be it on humans, animals, plants, microorganisms, or their genes, cells and other parts. We are also adamantly against biopiracy and the monopolization of biodiversity-related knowledge through such IPRs.

Our understanding of sui generis rights in TRIPS

The reaffirmation of our sui generis rights

It is on this basis that we will actively engage our societies from the village level through to our governments in the capitals to take part in the struggle for our sui generis rights, and on to the international level to oppose IPR on all forms of life. This implies a whole range of information, research, campaign and coalition building activities over the long term. Some of the immediate tasks at hand are to:

In the spirit of justice and embracing all knowledge of nature, we commit ourselves to the Thammasat Action Plan and invite other organizations, movements and peoples to join us in the struggle to achieve this vision.

Bangkok, December 5, 1997


- Carlos Correa, TRIPS expert and resource person, Buenos Aires
- Advice & Services to Alternative Agriculture Projects (AS-PTA)
- Cabinet of Senator Marina Silva
- Gisela S. de Alencar, Office of Legislative Research, House of Representatives
- Latin American Institute of Alternative Legal Services (ILSA)
- "Semillas" Group
- Senator Lorenzo Muelas Hurtado
Costa Rica
- Silvia Rodriguez, National University of Costa Rica
- Friends of the Earth Costa Rica (AECO-FoE)
- Small Farmers Association of Costa Rica (UPANacional)
- Accion Ecologica
- Dr. Regassa Feyissa, Biodiversity Institute
- Mr. Imeru Tamerat, Environmental Protection Authority
- Dan Leskien, TRIPS expert and resource person, Hamburg
- Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
- Indira Jaising, Supreme Court Advocate
- Pesticides Action Network (PAN Indonesia)
- Mr. Stevanus Wangsit, World Food Day Farmers and Fishers Movement of Indonesia (SPTN HPS)
- Manny Yap, PDG
- Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development (MASIPAG)
- Oscar Zamora, University of the Philippines Los Banos
South Africa
- David Fig, University of the Witwatersrand
- Thai Network on Community Rights and Biodiversity (BIOTHAI)
- Forum of the Poor
- Technology for Rural and Ecological Enrichment (TREE)
- Project for Ecological Recovery (PER)
- Somsak Daranoot, Department of Agriculture
- Jaroen Compeerapap. Chulalongkorn University
- Jakkrit Khuanpot, Sukhothai Thammathirat University
- Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
- Southern African Traditional Leaders' Council for the Management of Natural Resources
- Rosemary Makano, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
- Mr. Robert Mshana, Organisation of African Unity (OAU)
- Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN)
- Third World Network
- Via Campesina

Synthesis/Regeneration home page  | Synthesis/Regeneration 16 Contents