UPOV Future Work To Include Global Policy Challenges31/10/2008 by Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch 1 CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.By Kaitlin Mara Against the background of increasing food prices and related questions of food security and agricultural sustainability, the new secretary general of an international organisation protecting plant varieties outlined his future plans for the UN body.Francis Gurry, who is also the director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), was officially appointed secretary general of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) on 30 October during the organisation’s annual general assembly and was chaired by Doug Waterhouse of Australia.In particular, Gurry noted that plant breeders need assistance in responding to “challenges such as climate change, desertification, food security, preservation of biodiversity and shortage of energy,” according to a press release. Gurry’s acceptance speech to his appointment as director general of WIPO also mentions greater involvement in such broader policy areas, as technological innovation – and therefore intellectual property – will most likely play a role in addressing them.UPOV is an intergovernmental organisation currently comprised of 66 member states, established by an international convention on the protection of new varieties of plants in 1961. The convention was revised three times, most recently in 1991, though some members still follow the rules of earlier forms of the convention. With agricultural innovation often occurring in laboratories, new varieties of plants are often subject to some form of intellectual property protection.Decisions taken at the council include: the approval of an arrangement between UPOV and WIPO to allow the UPOV database of plant varieties to be included in WIPO’s Patentscope search service and a contribution of CHF 10,000 to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help cover costs for a conference on the role of new plant varieties in agriculture, to be held on 8-10 September, 2009.As a follow-up to the General Assembly, UPOV held a 31 October symposium on contracts in relation to plant breeder’s rights, in which several UPOV member states as well as several members of companies involved in plant breeding discussed ways to licence plant-based technology.Effective intellectual property protection on plant varieties is a challenge, as the technology is by nature self-replicating. Antonio Villarreol, managing director of GESLIVE, an association of plant breeders based in Spain, said there were cases in which seeds from proprietary fruit varieties purchased in a market (where purchasers would never see the technology use agreement) had been replanted and propagated.“From the first point of sale, control becomes diluted,” said Chris Green, director of Senova, a crop development and plant breeding company. Farms save seed, rather than buying new seeds, and sometimes fail to pay royalties on the saved seed, for instance.Further, said Villarreol, there are challenges in countries where plant breeders either do not exist or where there is no practical enforcement of them. Dominique Thevenon of the Associated International Group of Nurseries in France, said that the utility of contracts depends on there being “robust, valid rights with clear title of ownership” for the plant breeder. A breeder can only licence rights if the rights are well established, she explained.Also speaking from industry was John Grace, of Pioneer Hi-Bred International in the United States. Four UPOV member states explained the specifics of their local regulations regarding plant variety rights in their home countries: Waterhouse, chief of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office in Australia, Carmen Gianni, coordinator for intellectual property at the National Seed Institute (INASE) of Argentina, Martin Ekvad, head of the legal unit at the Community Plant Variety Office of the European Communities, and Nobuyoshi Takahashi, deputy director and legal advisor at the intellectual property division, plant production bureau, at Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Civil society was not represented at this symposium. The presentations of speakers at the event are available here.Kaitlin Mara may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Related"UPOV Future Work To Include Global Policy Challenges" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.