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The Protection Of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Bill – Implications For Seed Industry

Dr.  P. Sateesh Kumar, Director, Prabhat Agri Biotech Ltd.,  Hyderabad

“The protection of plant varieties and farmers’ rights bill” was passed by both houses of parliament in 2001. The rules are currently being drafted and implementation is expected in early 2003. A law dealing with plant variety protection became mandatory for India due to the agreement on TRIPS, which is part of the GATT. Article 27.3(b) of the section of TRIPS in GATT requires that “ parties shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patent or by an effective sui generis system or any combination there of”. The system provided by the inter – governamental  “International union for the protection of new varieties of plants (UPOV)”  formed the basis for developing the Indian PVP legislation.

The PVP legislation was eagerly awaited for a long time by the Indian seed industry. PVP legislation, which is basically a legislation for plant breeders rights, is a measure which provides the conditions for investment in plant breeding research. It will stimulate private sector investment in plant breeding in general and varietal development in particular. Plant breeding research is a long term process and expensive. It requires sustained effort by skilled and qualified professionals. PVP legislations in developed countries have encouraged massive investments in plant breeding research and development by the private sector.

The PVP legislation in India is expected to curtail the rampant piracy of varieties and breeding lines that is prevalent in the country today. This was working as a major disincentive for investments in  research. There are also several concerns about the PVP, like its impact on free exchange of germplasm, sustainability of small seed companies, monopoly of technology, higher seed prices etc. These issues will be discussed.

As on today, the research investment by the private seed industry was limited to work on hybrids, since hybrids provide a in-built mechanism for protecting them from piracy. The interests of the private sector in research on varieties is non existent because protection of varieties is impossible in the absence of PVP. The enactment of PVP legislation is likely to herald a wave of increased investments by private sector in varietal development along with hybrids.

The Farmers’ Rights portion of the current Indian legislation is something that is unique.  Although, this was incorporated in the PVP legislation with a noble intent of safe gaurding the farmer interests, the industry is worried that it provides a loophole that could be exploited to the detriment of the industry  and also farmer. The implications of the Farmers’ Rights part of the legislation will be discussed.


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