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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 532116
Title Creating space for ‘informal’ seed systems in a plant variety protection system that is based on UPOV 1991
Author(s) Jonge, B. de; Munyi, P.
Source ISSD Africa (KIT Working papers 2017-7) - 12 p.
Department(s) Law and Governance
Publication type Scientific report
Publication year 2017
Abstract Summary
Plant variety protection (PVP) gives a right holder
(breeder) the possibility to exclude others from using his
or her invention (plant variety) for a particular period.
African regional organizations are currently establishing
PVP systems that are in line with the international standards
set by the International Union for the Protection of
New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Proponents hope that
a UPOV-compliant PVP system will incentivize breeding
and the introduction of new varieties, while opponents
fear that such a PVP system would favour foreign seed
companies and criminalize farmers. The dichotomies
between proponents and opponents have taken centre
stage in national and international debates on this
topic, and there is much distrust and misunderstanding
between the various parties involved.
The challenge for African countries is to strike a balance
between protecting the interests of breeders in order to
maintain the incentive function of plant breeders’ rights in
the commercial market, while providing leeway to smallholder
farmers that depend on informal sources for their
seed security and survival. The project has created space
for key stakeholders to meet and discuss their viewpoints,
thereby starting a process of mutual learning and understanding,
both at the international and national level.
From these efforts, it can be concluded that in most
African countries PVP is relevant for only a small segment
of the formal seed sector. PVP, like any intellectual
property right, is intended to stimulate innovation and
by regulating rights and obligations amongst
parties involved in commercial trade. A PVP system
not incentivize breeding in crops for which there is no
commercial market. For that reason, public research
should carefully manage PVP applications
and not overestimate prospective revenues.
It was also concluded that a PVP system compliant with
UPOV 1991 can restrict the accessibility of protected
for smallholder farmers as it does not allow
to trade seed of a protected variety. Recent
confirms that smallholder farmers access their
seed mainly from informal channels, with the majority
being bought from local markets. Therefore, it is recommended
that UPOV member countries apply a broad
interpretation of the UPOV exemption for acts conducted
privately and for non-commercial purposes. This can be
achieved by developing regulations that allow a certain
category of farmers (i.e. smallholder or resource-poor
farmers) to freely save, exchange and sell farm-saved
seed of protected varieties of food crops.
Other concerns raised during the stakeholder meetings
relate to the need to improve transparency and democratic
accountability in decision-making processes on PVP, and
the compatibility of the UPOV system with national and
international legislation on access and benefit-sharing.
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