The Farmers’ Rights Project has been set up to facilitate a common understanding and develop an empirical basis for proposals to the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture on concrete measures to be taken to implement its provisions on farmers’ rights. This background study presents the findings of a comprehensive survey of documentation and literature on these rights. It is designed as a guide for negotiators, practitioners and researchers wishing to understand the concept and the potentials of farmers’ rights. The documents represent the fruits of long and complex negotiations, and provide an important context for the realization of farmers’ rights. How to reward farmers for their past, present and future contributions to conserving, improving and making available crop genetic resources for food and agriculture has been a central topic in the negotiations. An international fund for supporting and assisting farmers in this has long been on the agenda. Discussions have also focused on how farmers’ rights can balance breeders’ rights, so as to ensure an equitable system that can facilitate farmers’ continued access to – and free use of – crop genetic resources. The substantial and increasing body of literature on farmers’ rights provides a valuable source of insights in the potentials for, and possible difficulties in, realizing farmers’ rights. Although authors differ in their points of departure, emphases and perspectives, their contributions are largely compatible. The literature provides important points of departure for understanding the subject matter of farmers’ rights, types of rights, rights holders, and appropriate measures for protecting and promoting these rights. It also draws lessons from initial efforts at realizing these rights, and warns against certain tendencies which might prove counterproductive. The findings from this study will be further deepened in other studies from the Farmers’ Rights Project, and conclusions from the project will be presented in the final report.