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Plant breeder’s law should protect traditional agriculture

Legislation regarding plant breeder’s rights (breeders that improve plant varieties) has to take into account the developments of traditional farmers so their achievements will not eventually fall into the illegal category for not having an official certificate.

Bogotá D. C., 25 de julio de 2016Agencia de Noticias UN-

The Constitutional Court of Justice of Colombia has ruled Law 1518 of 2012 which approved UPOZ 1991 as unenforceable.

Camilo Cortés Vargas Bioscience and Law master’s candidate.

Critics of UPOV 91 say that one of its greatest issues is that it allows private ownership of seeds.

Ruling 970 has been so controversial that it stemmed a documentary.

In Colombia the National Rice Federation produces half of the certified seed in the country.

In this sense, despite that the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled Law 1518 of 2012 which approved UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) as unenforceable stating that the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities were not taken into consideration, some are seeking a new avenue for UPOV. 

One of the paths to this effect is Resolution 970 of the Colombian Agricultural and Livestock Institute (ICA, for its Spanish acronym), the governing entity for seed sanitary and phytosanitary management, which has produced a series of controversies. 

As said by Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Lawyer and Bioscience and Law master’s candidate Camilo Cortés Vargas, during a panel presentation where plant breeder’s protection and the seed system was analyzed. 

According to Cortés in Colombia, to admit rights to a plant variety, it has to be new. UPOV-1978 was more flexible, because it acknowledged that for many years peasant communities had improved seeds to preserve their crops, even though they were carried it out through ancestral knowledge. 

In general terms, a plant breeder is an individual or a legal entity which improves a plant variety whether for making it more resistant to a pesticide or to make it more productive or more nutritional. 

Cortés says that despite the abovementioned unenforceability, Resolution 970 tries to modify essential aspects of plant breeder’s to reach the UPOV 91 version, as to forbid seed reserves, which implies aggravating facts regarding food safety for the communities. 

While ICA states that Resolution 970 allows farmers to use part of their crop of improved seeds as new, because it establishes that when a farmer wishes to reserve seed as a product of his own exploitation, he must report it to ICA.  Country folk and those that have questioned the resolution sustain it limits their rights and favors the intellectual property of multinational companies. 

According to the ICA of the 66,000 tons of certified seed marketed in Colombia, 85% is produced by Colombian companies and 15% are imported by multinationals. 

“If country folk cannot freely use their seed, they will be restricted, from the economic standpoint, to the impositions the certified breeder poses to these plant varieties,” said Cortés. 

Therefore measures must be taken to protect farmers as has occurred in other places. In India, for instance, incompatibility was analyzed comprehensively until reaching regulations which protected the rights of breeders and farmers alike. 

Through Law 2001, India helped protect the rights of the community to matters such as preserve, treat and deliver seed to other members for free and acknowledge ancestral importance of communities to improve and preserve multiple plant varieties. 

But additionally the great achievement of the law was to build a database with the varieties they had from the ancestral point of view so the breeder that wants to register a new variety must detail where the new individual came from, a starting point of the improvement, which took many years in the making.

(Por: Fin/HEVC/MLA/APBL
)
N.° 148

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