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The impact of CPVRs on the EU economy and the environment

During the last days of April, CIOPORA Legal Counsel, Selena Travaglio, participated in the policy seminar organized by the Community Plant Variety Office, where the study on the economic and environmental impact of CPVRs was launched. In this article, the lawyer analyses the most interesting points for our breeder community.


By Selena Travaglio

Last April 28th, the European Study on the "Impact of the Community Plant Variety Rights system on the EU economy and the environment" was presented in the framework of the policy seminar “Plant Variety Protection: the path towards more sustainability, innovation and growth in the European Union”, hosted by the CPVO in Angers.


The importance of this work - carried out jointly by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) - lies not only in its content, but also in its ´symbolic´ value. This is the first time that a study dwells upon specific aspects of agriculture and horticulture, shedding light, data in hand, on the starring role of the CPVR system in output growth in EU agriculture over the last years. CPVRs (and PVRs, more generally) are, indeed, often seen as minor IP rights compared to patents, trademarks or copyright and therefore disregarded, or barely mentioned, in IP-related projects, publications or studies. Main Outcomes from the Study As reported by Dr. Nathan Wajsman, Chief Economist of the EUIPO, in presenting the study results, taking as a reference the years since the establishment of the CPVR system, it has been observed a significant yield growth, despite a declining input use by farmers.



The study shows, indeed, that the European farm sector, broadly speaking, is producing a lot more with considerably less; and this is due to the key-role of innovation in agriculture, which is expressed, on one side, in the improvement of production techniques and, on the other side, in plant breeding innovation, which finds an important support and protection in the PVR system.



It has been calculated that, in the absence of the CPVR system, in 2020, production in the EU would have been: for arable crops, 6.4% lower, for fruit 2.6% and for vegetables 4.7% lower, and for ornamentals this number would have reach 15.1%. It means that the supplementary production brought about by plant variety innovations supported by the CPVR is sufficient to feed an additional 57 million people world-wide (arable crops), 38 million in the case of fruit, and 28 million for vegetables.


Likewise, these data make it apparent the potential for the CPVR system to help achieve the European Commission's Green Deal objectives and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As recalled by Mrs. Sandra Gallina, Director General at the European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), in her keynote address during the policy seminar, “new and improved plant varieties are pivotal, are crucial to ensure better yields, adaptability to the changing climatic situations, etc.”, having a significant impact, inter alia, in reducing excessive fertilization and reverse biodiversity loss. Hence, the need for encouraging breeders to develop new varieties, as a key factor for economic and agricultural growth.


In this context, it is evident the “crucial role” played by the PVR (and, specifically, CPVR) system to support investments and promote research in plant breeding. However, to continue to invest their time and money in breeding activities, breeders need an effective PVR system, which takes account of the latest technological advances in the field.


The current CPVR regulatory framework dates back to 1994, being represented by the EC Regulation 2100/94 (the so-called “Basic Regulation”). Whilst it provides for a solid legal basis, the current legislation also presents significant shortcomings and weaknesses (such as regarding provisional protection and protection of harvested material), that have long been waiting for an adaptation, in accordance with the latest developments in global agriculture, horticulture and plant breeding technologies. Such modernization of the European legislation cannot wait any longer, if we do not want to lose the social benefits achieved so far and we really want to support innovation in agriculture. An up-to-date PVR legislation at EU level is essential to guarantee effective protection to breeders´ rights.


As known, thanks also to CIOPORA contribution, the revision of the Basic Regulation was eventually included in the EU IP Action Plan and it was planned that the works would have started around the end of 2022. It is very unfortunate that the start of the revision is now once more postponed to the end of 2023, allegedly because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the supervened Ukraine crisis. This will lead to a setback in fostering innovation in plant breeding, going in the opposite direction of the achievement of the European Green Deal objectives and the United Nations sustainable development goals. Therefore, we strongly hope that the preparatory work for the revision of the CPVR legislation within the time limits initially set.

 

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Mr. Andrés Velásquez

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