Although the day started with a whimper it ended with a bang as NPI participants left fully charged with new ideas.
The plan for the day was to visit USDA to learn about its plant variety protection procedures through a series of presentations by USDA staff. However, our visit got delayed by a couple of hours because of the lack of transport to reach the USDA campus from the metro station. Luckily after an hour or so, some of us got the bright idea of hiring taxis and it worked.
At USDA we got a terrific welcome “à l’Americaine” with plenty of good cheer, warmth and food. Overall the visit was a great learning experience for all NPI participants as the presentations provided a window into the world of USDA plant variety protection program, germplasm system, international partnership, and technology transfer, licensing and patenting.
The first presentation was on U.S. Plant Variety Protection Office by Janice M. Strachan, Senior Examinor, Plant Variety Protection Office. She walked us through the entire process of how a plant variety protection certificate is obtained based on the rigorous criteria of: new, uniform, stable and distinct. It was interesting to learn that the number of applications for certificates has gone up from about a 100 to 500 per year, and the main demand relates to corn varieties for biofuel.
Peter Bretting, National Program Leader, USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Office of National Programs spoke on the USDA National Plant Germplasm System, which is one of the largest in the world holding about 534,000 samples of 13,400 plant species. Its Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) has now become a world reference.
Eileen Herrera, Deputy Director, USDA, ARS Office of International Research Programs made a presentation on Office of International Research Programs. She emphasized the similarities between CGIAR and the USDA ARS and highlighted the recent ARS-CGIAR Meeting to explore collaboration on how both the organizations can strategically address food security in the changing global agricultural research environment.
The ARS Office of Technology Transfer was introduced by Diana Tucker. The main functions of this department are marketing, patenting, and licensing as well as agreements such as MTA and confidentiality. The activities are conducted on the assumptions that IP protection is a necessary incentive for private investment in financially risky innovations and that the private sector delivery of products and services is often the most effective and efficient means of technology transfer.
Overall the presentations were clear and well-structured. The lively exchange of questions and answers following the presentations stimulated the discussions. As Lucas put it:
“What USDA is doing in IP is very impressive and we have a lot to learn from them.”
Post written by Savitri Mohapatra, (NPI participant from AfricaRice)