Sunday December 10, 2023

Intellectual property rights over plants and seeds opposed

By Our Correspondent
February 12, 2021

Leaders of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity on Wednesday criticised the Ministry of National Food Security and Research’s recent decision to start the registration process for granting intellectual property rights (IPRs) for plants and seeds under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 and said that the act would take away farmers’ centuries-old traditional rights of saving and selling seeds.

Roots for Equity’s chairperson Dr Azra Sayeed and PKMT leaders Raja Mujeeb and Asif Khan, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, said that as a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights over seeds, not only would the country become dependent on corporations for national food security and food sovereignty, but the royalties paid to transnational corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed prices.

They said that it is a criminal act and goes against the ethical dictates of society. They claimed that the implementation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, like the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015, is dictated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The registration process is due to start on February 15. The agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds, they said.

“Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission,” said Sayeed.

“The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, just like the intellectual property rights laws, is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system, patents or a combination of both and provides mechanisms for owners holding intellectual property rights over plants and seeds to seek legal protection for their ownership of plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety.”

She said that is granted through Plant Breeders’ Rights laws, and the WTO, particularly TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production. “Seeds are living organisms and through genetic modification, transnational corporations are commodifying nature and seeking intellectual property rights to gain control of the seed sector,” she said.