Sonia writes to PM on farmers' rights

NEW DELHI JULY 26. Disturbed by the Government's move to join the Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) which could override the safeguards farmers enjoy under the law of the land, the Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, today sought the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee's intervention in ensuring that their rights are not jeopardised.

In a letter, she underlined the fact that there was no requirement under the WTO to join the UPOV as The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act — passed by Parliament last year — fulfils WTO obligations. Reacting to the Agriculture Ministry's recommendation that India become a member of UPOV, Ms. Gandhi noted with concern that the ``safeguards for farmers' rights laid down in The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act are unlikely to be permitted under UPOV''. This, she said, was evident from reports the Congress had received of large seed corporations stating that Indian farmers' rights would not be accepted once the country joins the UPOV.

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