Tag Archives: agriculture

“China’s agricultural patents on the rise”

Last month, the SciDevNet posted an article highlighting the rise in patent applications for agricultural innovations in China.  Read the full article “China’s agricultural patents on the rise“.

The article quotes authoritative sources bringing to light statistical data that indicates strong innovation trends in China, despite the world financial crisis.  However, the same article also points out the narrow geographical scope of the agricultural patenting (i.e very few patent applications are filed outside of China) and the possible “takeover” of the Chinese agricultural patent market by the foreign companies.  A leading researcher from CCIPA, Dr Song Min, is quoted by SciDevNet to highlight a lack of awareness of IPRs in the agricultural sector in China and the lack of IP policies at the national level.

CCIPA, as represented by Dr Song Min, has been an excellent partner for CAS-IP in the Asian region.  The representatives (Lu Xin, Dr Song Min, Li Zheng) from CCIPA have repeatedly attended the NPI Initiative and are currently finalizing the case study sponsored by CAS-IP, on “Plant Variety Protection System in China: Achievements, Influences and Challenges”.  (Visit this CAS-IP link for more case studies)

Given the well-established reputation of CCIPA and the close partnership between CAS-IP and CCIPA, it seem important that CAS would turn to CCIPA experts, in particular to Dr Song Min, to get a deeper outlook on the ongoing patenting trends, as it has been reported by the Sci Dev.  Dr Song Min kindly provided the following comment:

“In recent years China has witnessed a huge rise of domestic agricultural patent applications. However, the vast majority of them were just filed in China. According to statistics, so far the amount of patent cooperation treaty (PCT) applications for agricultural innovations is 334 which only make up 1.2 percent of total domestic agriculture-related invention patents. Therefore, China’s international applications in the field of agriculture need to be further reinforced.

Basically, obtaining broad regional or worldwide protection for their core inventions is a very critical (crucial) intellectual Property (IP) strategy adopted by many patent holders particularly those giant international companies. Our survey data shows that Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto have filed 1913, 717 and 413 PCT agricultural patents respectively, moreover all their applications are desired in many countries. Among all agricultural patent applications in China, it’s found that invention patents granted to foreign applicants account for 61.7%. The top five foreign applicants are Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, DuPont Pionner and Monsanto respectively. In their applications, the important technologies of crop protection, genes and recombinant DNA etc. are most claimed.

Correspondingly, China should begin to broaden their narrow country coverage especially for excellent agricultural technologies; otherwise a number of core innovations will be completely besieged by foreign patents. Taking insecticidal crystal protein as example, the average family size of China’s patents is merely 1.7 but similar patent families from US have more than 10 applications. In our opinion, such gap is mainly due to China’s holders’ being not familiar with PCT system and the high cost of filing patent applications globally. “

Post written by Irina Curca, Programme Assistant to CAS-IP

IP issues in the launch of MASA – The Malawi Seed Alliance

Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP, is on the road in Africa working on several ICRISAT projects.  He sent the following update:

On behalf of CAS I’ve been working with ICRISAT over the last year on the Irish Aid funded Malawi Seed Industry Development project, and we decided to launch a stakeholder alliance to support the work – making certified legume seed more widely available.

While small holder farmers in Malawi now purchase maize seed every year, most legumes are still grown from farm-saved seed (grain).  Experience suggests that trust in the source is a major factor in the adoption of new varieties and new crops.  In order to support small new seed companies and new seed retailers (mostly agrodealers), we proposed the development of an umbrella brand which could be used by all stakeholders in the supply and distribution chains.  ICRISAT agreed, and this plan will be supported by a marketing campaign to let farmers know about the benefit of buying certified seed and where they can buy it.

The issue I am very focused on right now is a practical application of my response to Ethiopia’s G.I. legislation (https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/ethiopia’s-gi-bill/) as follows:

It would be highly desirable to allow agrodealers who have passed through one of ICRISAT’s Seed Production and Marketing programs to display the MASA logo with a caption such as “MASA certified seed dealer”.  But as this branding exercise is all about trust and reliability, how can we ensure that a dealer does not pass grain off as certified seed by using one of the MASA branded seed bags we plan to distribute?  A few days ago I went out to Kasungu and discussed this with a group of five agrodealers who had participated in the first training.

Agrodealers in Malawi

Standing, from left : Elias Mpumila, Noel J. Sambo, Mathews Malata. Seated, from left : Mary Kazombo, Goodwin Kasale.

When I asked them about the “trust” issue, they made these observations:

  • the success of our businesses depends on our relationships with the farming community;
  • if we sell our customers a product which does not perform we risk losing business;
  • it is very much in our interests to make sure customers are satisfied with the products and services they buy from us.

This makes a lot of sense but does not rule out the odd scofflaw who decides to profit by selling grain in a seed bag marked with the MASA logo as certified seed.  One of the Alliance partners – NASFAM – proposed that we trade mark the MASA logo and name;  we had planned to do this, but – as in the case of Ethiopia – we will not have any enforcement mechanisms, so the risk factor needs further consideration.

Several days after writing the above, I met with another group in Dwangwa who had formed an agrodealer association.  They had invited two tribal chiefs to join the discussion and it soon became evident that the association viewed entry into the seed market as a significant development for the local economy.  When I raised our concern about possible misuse of the MASA branded seed bags, the two chiefs responded by telling me that this would not happen – they would raise the issue at community meetings.  After further discussion it became evident that informal “self-policing” would take place in this area and that we could encourage similar activity in other regional markets.

As the benefits so far outweigh the risks, we are moving ahead to trade mark the MASA brand, develop a license agreement and signage for the agrodealers, and ensure that appropriate MASA-branded seed bags are ordered prior to the harvest.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Sustainable agriculture in Bolivia: Coca Colla

Last week  IP Tango drew my attention to some news from the South American continent that made me wonder whether the Bolivian government is being extremely strategic in its use of intellectual property, or not….

According to the item, Bolivia with the support of its president Evo Morales, have decided to start investing in the production of a new soft drink called “Coca-Colla Energy”.  There are of course many discussions to be had around the inevitable accusations of trade mark infringements from Coca-Cola (even though it is difficult to see how Coca-Colla could really damage its better known sister)! 

Whilst encouraging the local industry of a developing country is a good thing; coca is not going to sustain and feed the Bolivian population – and the Government wants to allocate 20,000 hectares to growing it!  It is also highly likely that there will be reactions in relation to the narcotic issue.  The International Narcotics Control Board has tried for years to ban coca leaf chewing, and could claim that the use of coca leaves in a different product should also be banned.  However, it is interesting to see that Bolivia’s new constitution, drafted by the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, recognises coca as “cultural heritage, a natural and renewable resource of biodiversity in Bolivia and a factor of social cohesion” and thus not a narcotic in its natural state…

Whatever the merits of this particular product and its obvious stance against a giant of global capitalism, the proposal raises interesting issues about alternative ways of exploiting IP for development; even if it is not quite ‘the real thing’!

Spanish speakers might enjoy the humorous comments from Renzo Colanzi.

Post written by Francesca Re Manning, consultant to CAS-IP

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto

Stewart Brand’s new book will not be published until January 2010.  But it is already creating a stir.  Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog” was ubiquitous in the 60s and 70s and was the default bible for what became the environmental movement.

Kai Ryssdal interviewed Brand on NPR’s Marketplace.  You can listen to the exchange at:
(text of the interview available even if you have problems downloading the audio)

Fans of Brand will be surprised;  his underlying message is that if the modern environmental movement is going to have any impact, practitioners must keep up with new science.  Within the context of climate change, Brand spoke about big city slums, nuclear power and GM crops.  He expressed the view that if critics could get over their built-in resistance, they would see that GM will support positive environmental goals.

Already the crops that we have now, the herbicide tolerant and the insect-resistance crops, like Bt-corn and Bt-cotton, and so on, are cutting back on pesticide use, which is terrific. The herbicide-tolerant ones mean that you don’t need to plow every year, so you’re getting what amounts to higher yield, so you can raise more food on less land. And all of that is good for ecology in general and climate in particular.

The interview has already generated a number of comments.  One listener observed:

… in light of the interview on NPR I heard about a month ago produced by World Vision that discussed the so-called “Green Revolution” which is based on genetically engineered crops.

Although the initial outcomes were encouraging, one only needs to look at the current food crises in India to see the devastation that has occurred. The dependence on monoculture and fossil fuels for fertilizers, especially with the end of cheap oil, is the “height of irresponsibility”.

Monoculture results in depleted soil with poor yields, not to mention the high cost of fertilizer. Quoting Vandana Shiva: “We must stop focusing on simply maximizing grain yields at any cost and consider the environmental and social impacts of food production.”

(see also – https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/the-next-green-revolution-warnings/)

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

A “new biology” for the world’s most pressing problems

Ref: item on MITnews.  An interview with MIT institute Professor Phillip Sharp who recently called for the US to “build upon recent scientific developments” and work towards solving some of the world’s most pressing problems; food, energy, climate and health.

Victoria Henson-Apollonio Senior Scientist and Manager of CAS-IP, spotted the link and made the following comment:

“Agriculture is likely going to get an influx of “new blood”.  Those scientists that have been working in health are going to be looking for conquering new territories.  We should welcome them with open arms.  We are soon going to be in the fast lane and we’ll make lots of technical progress.  We all need to do a better job of translating this into reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in a sustainable way.”

System Dynamics conference 2009, and CAS-IP using SDM technique for research

Sebastian Derwisch presents at the 27th International System Dynamics Conference, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (July 2009)This week sees the 27th International System Dynamics Conference, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.  The CAS-IP System Dynamics Modelling team were there and on Monday Sebastian Derwisch presented a plenary presentation entitled: “Model-based exploration of strategies for fostering adoption of improved seed in West Africa” (download the paper here)

Sebastian Derwisch had the following to say:

“Two plenary presentations in the morning [Monday] highlighted the potential a contribition from the field of SD could make to global challenges like energy, climate change and food production. The research of CAS-IP (and the CGIAR) relates directly to the long term goals of the SD society. This shows that system dynamicists also see the methodology as a suitable approach to adress these global challenges.”

I am looking forward to hearing more from both Sebastian Derwisch and Sebastian Poehlmann about how their interactions at this conference may influence the future of the SDM work they are doing for CAS-IP.

The G8 & the agriculture ministers’ meeting

Last month in Rome the G8 Agriculture Ministers’ meeting was held.  The lead link provides all the details anyone would ever need on this meeting (and more…)  Looking at the final declaration point number 5 deserves a special mention.

“5.    We call for enhanced support including investments in agricultural science, research, technology, education, extension services, and innovation. We also commit ourselves to increasingly share technology, processes and ideas with other countries in the interest of increasing the capacity of national and regional institutions and governments, as well as promoting food security. These efforts are vital to increasing sustainable agricultural productivity and rural development in each country, in accordance with various agricultural conditions, respecting biodiversity and improving peoples’ access to food, social and economic development and prosperity. We will continue our support to capacity building in developing countries in sanitary and phytosanitary standards in order to facilitate access to markets and fulfill requirements of consumers.”

Plenty of IP touch-points in there!  Innovation… sharing…

Of course the meeting was reportedly both positive and negative, depending on which version of events you read.  However, surely it can only be a good sign that this meeting took place and that agriculture is receiving this high level focus.  We will keep an eye open as to whether this translates into more attention/action at the main G8 meeting in July.