Farmer-plant-breeders and the law on Java, Indonesia

Christoph Antons, Yunita T. Winarto, Adlinanur F. Prihandiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last two decades, some Javanese rice farmers have learned to be plant breeders with the help of Farmer Field Schools for Participatory Plant Breeding. However, they have experienced problems with seed and intellectual property laws primarily focused on the strengthening of the seed industry and compliance with development plans. A number of farmers have been prosecuted for experimenting with seeds, prompting a partly successful challenge to relevant provisions in Indonesia’s Constitutional Court. Subsequent legislative changes have restored some farmers’ rights, but also brought new reporting requirements and limitations. Using James Scott’s concept of “transformative state simplifications,” this article shows that legal challenges to regulations are just one strategy of self-help. The political reform process and possibility for constitutional challenges have opened up space for debates about how farmers can benefit from laws that seek to regulate their cultivars. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other developments are likely to intensify discussions about what precisely various laws mean by their encouragement of “small farmer varieties,” “food sovereignty,” and a “sustainable agricultural cultivation system.”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-609
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Asian Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2020


  • farmer varieties
  • Farmer-plant-breeders
  • food sovereignty
  • plant variety protection
  • sustainable agriculture


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