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Islamabad

May 18, 2018

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Functional regulatory framework needed to implement plant breeding laws

Islamabad : With the advent of modern technological advancements as well as scientific developments, the concept of intellectual property and its application have become quite significant. The inventor usually seeks a return on his effort by acquiring Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

They allow the inventor to restrict the use of the intellectual property, i.e., no one is allowed to use, manufacture, grow, sell or offer to sell the invention without permission. Several forms of this protection exist and they include copyright, trade secret, trademarks, plant breeder's rights, and patents.

Unlike in the past, increasing proprietary nature is one of the main features of modern agricultural biotechnology. Scientists now need to consider IPRs as an important factor in their research, especially for product development. Since the early 1990s, most major research organizations, whether public or private, are actively implementing IPR policies.

In developing countries, the IPR conditions are not very well defined. The patents, plant breeders’ rights and trademarks have been awarded by national governments but the protection is valid only in countries in which these rights are issued.

Anyone is free to use technologies in crops that are developed, produced, and consumed in countries where the technology is not subject to local IP protection. IP problems, however, may arise when these crops are subsequently exported to countries in which the technologies are protected by IPRs.

Plant Breeder's Rights (PBRs) are used to protect new varieties of plants by giving exclusive commercial rights for about 20-25 years to market a new variety or its reproductive material. The variety must be novel, distinct, uniform, and stable. This protection prevents anyone from growing or selling the variety without the owner's permission. Exceptions may be made, however, for both research and use of seed saved by a farmer for replanting.

Pakistan is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has the obligation to provide a mechanism for the protection for plant varieties. Pakistan is also a member of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture which recognises the right of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds.

Accordingly, Pakistan adopted Plant Breeders’ Rights Act on September 5, 2016 to encourage the development of new plant varieties and to protect the rights of breeders of such varieties. The act provided protection for new plant varieties while respecting the right of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds, a practice which is the backbone of agricultural system and the main channel through which farmers get access to seeds in most developing countries.

The adoption of Plant Breeders’ Rights Act was widely welcomed by the local and international technology developers and researchers. However experts believe that the next steps which included forming rules and setting up the relevant entity to monitor and implement these rules are still pending. Experts say that it's imperative to put in place a functional regulatory framework to start the implementation of the laws related to plant breeding. This will not only encourage local and international researchers and organizations to introduce new technologies in agriculture sector but will also lead to yield improvement are still pending.

Experts say that it's imperative to put in place a functional regulatory framework to start the implementation of the laws related to plant breeding. This will not only encourage local and international researchers and organizations to introduce new technologies in agriculture sector but will also lead to yield improvement.

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