TPP may cause Malaysian farmers to lose rights, claim activist groups


File pic of a rice farmer in Tanjung Karang.

File pic of a rice farmer in Tanjung Karang.

PETALING JAYA: Activist groups are claiming that Malaysian small farmers could lose out under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as seed companies stand to benefit from longer monopolies.

One of the conditions under the TPP is that member countries are required to join the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants 1991 (UPOV91), which Malaysia is not a member of.

The claim, by US-based Public Citizen and the Penang-based Third World Network (TWN), comes in the wake of a leaked document on the TPP on whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

According to the groups, changing the current plant variety protection (PVP) laws would result in farmers not being able to exchange seeds. The UPOV91 would also require protection to be provided for all species of plants.

Preventing farmers from exchanging their seeds is contrary to the practices of many developing nations and is needed for crop and variety rotation.

Moreover, changing the existing laws would also result in seed companies having longer monopolies.

Malaysia would also have to adjust its protection and anti-biopiracy provisions.

On Friday, WikiLeaks released a 60-page document on Intellectual Property Rights along with the analysis by Public Citizen and Third World Network.

The groups added that there are other provisions in the leaked document that could keep costs of inputs for farmers higher for a longer period. These include patents on plant-derived inventions and on new uses of agricultural chemicals.

Other TPP countries that are not members of UPOV91 are Brunei, Mexico and New Zealand. 

The TPPA is a free trade agreement that involves 12 countries including the United States. The member countries have two years to ratify the agreement that will take effect in 2018. On Thursday the Government said that it the TPPA would be tabled in Parliament after Budget 2016 is passed.