Save Our Seeds (SOS) - Legal Challenges to Seed Intellectual Property Rights & Seed Patent Regimes


Lead Organization: Center for Food Safety

Partners: African Centre for Biosafety 

Award: $50,000 over 24 months (2012-2014)

The Fund awarded the Center for Food Safety and its partner, the African Centre for Biosafety, $50,000 to preserve the livelihood of small-scale farmers in the Global South and strengthen their rights under domestic and international law to counter the growing problem of seed commercialization. The partners will advance the principle that seeds are a public good to be protected through legal research and action. Together they will pursue a biopiracy case involving a patent obtained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Texas A&M University for a Tanzanian sorghum gene. These parties are in the process of licensing the seed commercially for private profit. As sorghum is a traditional crop critical for food stability in Africa, this patent could cause high levels of hunger and malnutrition. The project will have two phases: exploratory research to build the legal challenge, followed by filing administrative charges and a public awareness campaign. If the legal challenge is successful, it would set a critical precedent by returning this seed to the small-scale farmers currently cultivating sorghum. By providing an influential example to other countries, this project could help lead to a shift toward supporting more agroecological farming methods that would preserve traditional and indigenous farming knowledge. 

Round 1Firas Nasr