Interesting article from Allafrica.com. It deals with a thorny collection of the issues surrounding seed, increasing use of UPOV protection by seed developers, the rights of farmers, genetic diversity and the livelihoods of poor farmers.
The AllAfrica write up also references a news release that was on the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) website. This article also includes several references to the loss of benefit to small-scale farmers from new variety development. The IIED say in their post:
“Small-scale farmers rarely benefit when outsiders such as corporate plant breeders make use of their traditional seeds to develop new varieties, because the plant breeders acquire the intellectual property rights when they test and register the new varieties.”
It is worth pointing out that IPRs over a new variety don’t affect the rights of the traditional variety used in the breeding. The public sector should be aware of the workings of the formal IP sector to be able protect its public goods effectively. Being proactive about cataloguing and listing known varieties in common knowledge databases will avoid confusion about what is new and what is not! This is critical information to a PVP examiner processing an application for a “new” variety. The PVP system could also help ensure existing knowledge remains free from restriction, but of course only if that “existing knowledge” is specified and accessible to examiners.
Seems we weren’t the only ones to raise an eyebrow at the IIED article. See the post (and subsequent debate) on the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog from earlier this month. It picks up on the subject of genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). It’s a good read!
Thanks to Kalpana Sastry, Principal Scientist at NAARM for sending the AllAfrica link.