Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Vegetable Protections: New CAFTA Battleground?

March 30, 2007

Opponents of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA) are trying to uproot a bill in the Legislative Assembly intended to promote research and development in seed technology as part of CAFTA reforms.

The proposal, which would protect the developer of a new seed variety’s exclusive right to sell that variety for up to 25 years, has CAFTA opponents defending small farmers and Costa Rica’s food security.

“This project attempts to patent seeds and plants, to hand them over to transnational companies from the United States and steal them from the people of Costa Rica,” Broad Front legislator José Merino said in a statement.

The bill includes jail time as punishment for those who don’t respect the protections – a part of the proposal even supporters say they are trying to change.

As part of CAFTA, which Costa Rica has signed but not ratified, the country agreed to pass 13 other bills along with the trade pact. Under CAFTA and in accordance with a 1991 international agreement, Costa Rica must pass a law that would give the developers of new seed varieties the exclusive right to market them for up to 25 years.

“It’s an attempt to support those who develop new varieties, so the costly process of investment is protected,” said National Liberation Party (PLN) legislator Salvador Quirós. Quirós, who is the president of the assembly’s Agriculture, Fishing and Natural Resources Commission debating the proposal, said the bill is important for the development of new seed varieties to battle disease and plagues that have ravaged Costa Rican farms in recent years, he said. He added that six of the nine commission members support the proposal, but it hasn’t yet been brought to a vote.

Anti-CAFTA legislators from the opposition Citizen Action Party (PAC) have presented most of the approximately 80 motions to that project in the commission.

To speed up the debate, the assembly voted March 22 to put a one-month time limit on the commission’s discussion of the proposal before voting on it.

At a press conference at the Legislative Assembly Wednesday, CAFTA opponents gathered to show their unified disapproval of the proposal.

“Should our seeds, our plants, be in the hands of our people, our citizens, or in the hands of a few?” said anti-CAFTA activist Cesar López, who heads the Cultural Movement against CAFTA. He was flanked by Merino, PAC legislators and anti-CAFTA educators from the country’s public universities.

Pro-CAFTA Libertarian Movement legislator Ovidio Aguero, who is also on the commission, denied allegations that the proposal would restrict farmers’ abilities to replant seeds from plants grown from protected seeds they bought in previous years.

However, Aguero did acknowledge the need to include more protections for small farmers. He said he is working with the National Seed Office to develop a motion or motions to change the bill to define what is a small farmer and give small farmers the ability to “freely exchange” protected seeds among themselves.

 

You may be interested

Chirripó National Park to reopen October 30
Costa Rica
1706 views
Costa Rica
1706 views

Chirripó National Park to reopen October 30

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 28, 2020

Chirripó National Park will reopen for tourists on October 30, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) announced Monday. Visitors…

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Monday, September 28
Costa Rica
5568 views
Costa Rica
5568 views

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Monday, September 28

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 28, 2020

Costa Rica announced 49 new coronavirus-related deaths since Friday for a total of 861, according to official data released Monday…

SJO airport improvements delayed, report says
Costa Rica
6709 views
Costa Rica
6709 views

SJO airport improvements delayed, report says

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 28, 2020

The operator of Costa Rica's Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) will suspend planned improvements for several years due to the…