Saving, exchanging, selling and using farm-saved seeds are part of Farmers' Rights
Farmers' Rights are a precondition for the maintenance of crop genetic diversity, which is the basis of all food and agriculture production in the world. Basically, realizing Farmers' Rights means enabling farmers to maintain and develop crop genetic resources as they have done since the dawn of agriculture, and recognizing and rewarding them for this indispensable contribution to the global pool of genetic resources.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognizes the enormous contributions made by farmers worldwide in conserving and developing crop genetic resources, and it provides for measures to protect and promote these rights. These include protection of traditional knowledge; farmers’ right to participate in decision making on issues related to plant genetic resources; and the right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilization of plant genetic resources.
Indispensable part of Farmers’ Rights to enable farmers to continuing being custodians of plant genetic resources, are their rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed/propagating material. These rights are also crucial for seed security as farmed saved seeds either from own holding or a neighbors, is the main source of seeds for the majority of farmers in developing countries.
To what degree different national laws on plant variety protection take Farmers’ Rights into consideration varies. Some are in direct conflict by e.g. banning Farmers’ Rights to save seeds while others are drafted in such a way that plant breeders’ rights and farmers’ rights are balanced.
In late 2018 the UN General Assembly in New York adopted a path-breaking Declaration on the protection of the rights of peasant families and other people working in rural areas. Article 19 of the Declaration deals specifically with the right to seeds including «The right to save, use, exchange and sell their farm-saved seed or propagating material.» The Declaration states that «States shall ensure that seed policies, plant variety protection and other intellectual property laws, certification schemes and seed marketing laws respect and take into account the rights, needs and realities of peasants and other people working in rural areas.»
Source and further reading: http://www.farmersrights.org
Geneva Academy (2020): The right to seeds and intellectual property rights - Research brief
Haugen (2020): The UN Declaration on Peasants' Rights (UNDROP): Is Article 19 on seed rights adequately balancing intellectual property rights and the right to food?
CBDC Network (2009): Farmers' Rights: Vision and Realization. Report of farmers consultation process in Africa, Asia and Latin America (and other publications)