|Merpel's plant breeding attempts|
were not as successful as hoped
Apparently, while the companies support the objective of fair benefit sharing between providers and users of genetic resources, they consider that the Regulation as currently framed will not achieve this. (Which is rather what this moggy has been thinking as well). In particular they consider that to keep exact documentation for every line that may be used in an experimental breeding programme is impossibly onerous. Thus, the due diligence requirements of the Regulation cannot practically be complied with. The result, they say, is that research into new plant varieties will be stifled, and so, ironically, biodiversity will suffer.
“The EU Regulation leads to abundant red tape, restricts access to plant genetic resources in particular for plant breeders – meaning: its utilization in breeding- and by far exceeds the principles laid down in the Nagoya Protocol itself”.
Ms Franck stresses that German plant breeders give their unconditional support to the objective of fair benefit sharing between providers and users of genetic resources of the Nagoya Protocol. The EU Regulation implementing it, however, does not provide a viable solution. Real benefit sharing will only take place as long as plant breeders actually use the resources, i.e. as long as access is not prevented by excessive bureaucratic hurdles. Plant breeding needs a special approach, explains Ms Franck, since utilization of a genetic resource in plant breeding is not comparable to other forms of utilization, as e.g. in the pharmaceutical industry. The plant breeder can only uncover the value of genetic resources during the long breeding process, and therefore the direct exploitation of genetic resources is not given . “The exact documentation on the utilization of genetic resources as required by the EU Regulation is practically not feasible,“ says Ms Franck. The CIMMYT wheat variety Veery for example is a product of 3,170 crossings between 51 different parental lines originating from 26 different countries. Such a plant variety has been developed over many generations and by many different plant breeders. “A plant breeder simply does not have the information required for documentation” Ms Franck adds.
Above all, the EU Regulation implementing the Nagoya Protocol undermines the basic principle of plant variety protection, which has been designed as “open source” system. Currently, a newly bred plant variety, once placed on the market is free for use as a genetic resource for further breeding –without any further restrictions. This simple access will become impossible in the future due to comprehensive documentary obligations. In the end, this will lead to a depletion of genetic diversity, and thus to more restricted choice of plant varieties and to a slowdown of the breeding progress. This happens at a time when plant research, plant breeding and agriculture are confronted with the global challenges to produce more despite increasing scarcity of land, and to do so in a sustainable way, i.e. using as little non-renewable resources as possible. “To achieve this, varieties of premium quality adapted to different regional climates are essential. The diverse utilization of all existing genetic resources provides an important foundation for this effort. Otherwise, we will have to expect lower and less stable yields and rising food prices, in the midterm”, Ms Franck warns.What the IPKat would really like, however, is some detail of the case itself, which is sadly lacking from the report he has seen. He thinks that the case concerned might be T-559/14 - Ackermann Saatzucht and Others v Parliament and Council, since the companies who have brought action are listed in the press release as follows:
- Ackermann Saatzucht GmbH & Co. KG
- Böhm Nordkartoffel Agrarproduktion GmbH & Co. KG
- Deutsche Saatveredelung AG
- Ernst Benary Samenzucht GmbH
- Freiherr von Moreau Saatzucht GmbH
- Gartenbau J. + H. Westhoff GbR
- HYBRO Saatzucht GmbH & Co. KG
- Klemm + Sohn GmbH & Co. KG
- KWS SAAT AG
- Norddeutsche Pflanzenzucht Hans-Georg Lembke KG
- Nordsaat Saatzuchtgesellschaft mbH Saatzucht Langenstein
- P. H. Petersen Saatzucht Lundsgaard GmbH
- PZO - Pflanzenzucht Oberlimpurg Dr. Peter Franck
- Saatzucht Streng-Engelen GmbH & Co. KG
- SaKa Pflanzenzucht GmbH & Co. KG
- Strube Research GmbH & Co. KG
- W. von Borries-Eckendorf GmbH & Co. KG
Finally, the IPKat has now heard that this is not the only case - there is also apparently a similar action from plant breeders in the Netherlands, brought by 16 companies. Will there be more? Will any action be successful? The IPKat and Merpel cannot wait to hear more details. If any reader has more information, please comment or email in the usual manner.