By Selena Travaglio.-
On June 21, in the frame of the “Train-The-Trainer Course on Plant Variety Protection under the UPOV Convention”, CIOPORA Legal Counsel, Selena Travaglio, took part in a panel discussion on the role of plant breeding and plant variety protection to address global challenges and opportunities, bringing the viewpoint of plant breeders from the horticultural industry. The event was organized and hosted by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) in cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and with the assistance of the Government of Japan and was attended by several national IP/PVP officers and representatives of the competent Ministries, mainly from African and Asia-Pacific countries, as well as researchers and exponents of the FAO and the CPVO.
The workshop aimed to emphasize - through direct testimonials from the agricultural and horticultural industries - the benefits of the UPOV plant breeders' rights system, with countries that have recently joined or are considering acceding.
For CIOPORA, this was a good occasion to recall that - while the plant breeders’ rights system based on the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention provides for a good degree of protection of plant varieties of all genera and species – for it to be adequate and effective, a uniform, clearly regulated protection and enforcement system, easy to understand and implement by IP officers and law enforcement authorities, must be ensured.
The essential role of plant breeders in facing the current challenges in horticulture, especially those caused by sudden and abrupt weather changes and extreme temperature variations across countries, was then upheld.
Rising global temperatures are, in fact, one of the main factors in declining yields, and new, improved varieties can help offset these declines and even significantly increase global production. In this context, breeders are the only ones able to find adaptive solutions to climate change, by investing in R&D projects for improved weather-resistant crop varieties (e.g., drought-resistant crops to make up for the water shortage), allowing for increased production using fewer resources. Likewise, investments in new pest-resistant and disease-resistant crop varieties permit limiting or ceasing the use of pesticides.
Breeders are THE innovators in the agricultural and horticultural sectors and thus have every right to get adequate and effective intellectual property (IP) protection on their inventions. The acknowledgment of breeders’ rights cannot – and should not – be perceived as a discriminatory allocation of rights to the detriment of growers and food security goals. On the contrary, as mentioned above, it promotes, in the public interest, progress in the sector, enabling growers to access new, improved varieties, and increasing production and revenues.
If we want to succeed in meeting these challenges for the benefit of society at large, we need timely and sound solutions. And this can be achieved only by supporting rapid breakthroughs in innovation.
Here is the importance of plant variety protection. Plant variety protection is the specific means to safeguard ongoing innovation in plant breeding, as it allows breeders to have a return on the extensive and long-term investments made. Breeders are THE innovators in the agricultural and horticultural sectors and thus have every right to get adequate and effective intellectual property (IP) protection on their inventions. The acknowledgment of breeders’ rights cannot – and should not – be perceived as a discriminatory allocation of rights to the detriment of growers and food security goals. On the contrary, as mentioned above, it promotes, in the public interest, progress in the sector, enabling growers to access new, improved varieties, and increasing production and revenues.
One of the main take-homes conveyed was thus that plant breeders’ rights are not antagonistic to those of other operators in the agricultural and horticultural sectors and plant variety protection is a “cascade” system that, while safeguarding breeders, enables the maintenance and improvement of the entire agricultural and horticultural value chain. Producers are the first to demand new, high-quality varieties, promising on the market, which can lead to higher profits. When breeders are not able to protect and enforce their rights effectively, this causes significant and perpetual harm to the entire production and distribution chain, and growers who work according to the law are among the first to suffer the most consequences of IP infringing activities.
All this confirms the importance of preserving and further improving the protection system provided by UPOV and, consequently, the key role played by CIOPORA and its members to this end.