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KP draft bill to protect plant breeders’ rights

Farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will shortly be governed by a provincial law under which they would not be allowed to sell their farm produce of a protected variety for reproduction purposes.

Section 30 of the draft Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2014, introduces the restriction though it upholds farmers’ other traditional rights.

It says: “Nothing contained in this Act shall affect a farmer’s traditional right to save, use, exchange, share or sell his farm produce of a protected variety except where a sale is for the purpose of reproduction under a branded marketing arrangement.”

The draft bill, which was tabled before the provincial assembly in its recent session, protects the rights of plant breeders in accordance with a policy of the provincial government to promote and strengthen seed industry and market in the province.

An initiative of the Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperative Department, the proposed bill envisages the establishment of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office, which would perform its duties as an extension of the Directorate General, Agriculture Research Department.

Its responsibilities include coordination with the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Office under the Seed Act of 1976. Similarly, it will also act in accordance with the advice issued from time to time by the management committee that would be set up by the provincial government.

The management committee will propose measures for encouraging the development of seed industry in the province. Besides, it would also lend advice about granting or cancelling compulsory licences and certificates by the plant breeders’ office.

The proposed law, which is expected to be enacted in the assembly’s next session, lays down the procedure for issuing certificates and licences for the protected varieties in the province.

A new plant variety would be covered by the plant breeders’ right subject to the provision of a declaration by the breeder, testifying that the variety is safe with no negative effects on human, plant or animal health and public welfare.

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In the case of a genetically modified organism, a breeder would be required to provide a certificate from the relevant authority, declaring that the variety is not detrimental to the environment, public, plant and animal health and bio-diversity.

Section 6 of the bill underlines that ‘This Act [upon enactment] shall apply to all sexually (vegetative) propagated plant species, except plant varieties with terminator genes or other similar technology and micro-organisms. However, in view of the development of seed industry, the government from time to time may notify the genera and species to be covered for protection under this Act.’

It adds that, ‘the manner in which a variety has been developed, whether through cross-breeding, bio-technology, mutation, selection or otherwise, shall not affect its eligibility for a certificate or the enforcement of that certificate.’

Individuals/firms/departments applying to get a certificate for their plant varieties would be required to provide an appropriate denomination of the variety; a description of it as complete, reasonably explaining its novelty, parentage/pedigree and breeding history.

The applicants would be required to provide a drawing or photograph to understand and evaluate the novelty of the variety.

The draft law sets criteria for resolving dispute between two interested parties. If two or more breeders independently bred the same variety and apply for certificate, the person who first applied for the certificate will receive it.

According to its section 17’s sub-section (2), the person who earlier filed an application for registering/certification a plant variety in a foreign country, he/she shall be entitled to claim the right of priority for getting the said plant variety’s certificate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well.

The protected varieties of trees and vines would be issued certificates for 25 years whereas the rest of the plants would be issued certificates for 20 years.

The term of the certificate in the case of a protected tree and vine would be extended to a maximum for five additional years whereas the rest of the plants’ certificates would be extended for three years.

In an effort to encourage research in the field of plant development, the proposed law contains that the use or reproduction of a protected variety, hybrid or parental material, without authorisation of its owner, for plant breeding or other genuine scientific research shall not constitute a violation of the infringement clauses of the proposed law.

Courtesy: DAWN

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