ARIPO Reviews Draft Regulations On Implementation Of Arusha Protocol On Plant Varieties 24/06/2016 by Hillary Muheebwa for Intellectual Property Watch 3 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) last week hosted a meeting of experts in Harare, Zimbabwe, to review the Draft Regulations for the Implementation of the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. While opening the meeting, Zimbabwe’s Ringson Chitsiko applauded ARIPO for having developed the Arusha Protocol and acknowledged the extensive work that was put into it by experts from the member states. Chitsiko is the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Chitsiko urged the delegates to “appreciate that the development of new varieties of plants is important to African food security as it is meant to improve agricultural productivity as well as provide farmers with high yielding pest and disease free seeds.” The Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants was adopted by ARIPO member states in July 2015. The Protocol is modelled on the 1991 Act of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991). After adopting the Protocol, the ARIPO secretariat was tasked with formulating draft regulations, which will guide the implementation and operations of the protocol. The review meeting was attended by experts from ministries of agriculture in the member states, representatives from national intellectual property offices, plant breeders and civil society organisations. Among the civil society organisations that attended were representatives from the African Centre for Biodiversity, African Seed Trade Association, and Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa. Other plant breeders’ rights organisations that participated in the meeting were the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) of the European Union, Groupement National Interprofessionnel des Semences et Plants (GNIS), and Geneva-based International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). According to ARIPO, “while deliberations were mainly centered on the key provisions of the Arusha Protocol vis-à-vis provisions of other existing global plant variety protection systems and the benefits of plant varieties protection, the meeting was to also to comprehensively review the draft regulations to make them amenable to the situation and demands of the African farmer.” Among the issues to be defined in the regulations are the restrictions on exercise of breeder’s right, fees for application and implementation of the protocol, remuneration to be paid by farmers, and the information to be provided by the farmer to the breeder. Francesco Mattina, head of legal unit at the CPVO, presented to the meeting the community plant variety protection system of the European Union. Yolanda Huerta, UPOV legal counsel, presented a summary of the UPOV system and how it has been benefiting its members. Experts in a panel discussion session (Courtesy of ARIPO) During the meeting, the work done by the delegates included deletions, additions, corrections, clarifications, redrafting and simplifications made to the text of the draft regulations in order to accommodate as much as possible the aspirations of the various stakeholders represented by the experts taking part in the meeting. “The Arusha Protocol relates to food security, which is an issue of great concern for African and developing countries. The protection that would be given to plant breeders will incentivise them to propagate new plant varieties, which will ultimately enhance food security,” reads part of a statement released by ARIPO. According to the Protocol, it recognises “the need to have an effective sui generis system of intellectual property protection of new varieties of plants that meets the requirements of Article 27.3 (b) of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.” Article 27.3 (b) of the TRIPS Agreement states that, “members may also exclude from patentability: plants and animals other than micro-organisms, and essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals other than non-biological and microbiological processes. However, Members shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof.” Pre-eminence of Plant Breeders, Concerns for Farmers Civil society organisations have campaigned against plant breeders’ regulation, arguing that the proposed protection framework is unsuitable for African countries as it may affect traditional rights for farmers to save, exchange or sell farm-saved seeds. Bridget Mugambe, policy advocate for Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, said in a statement to Intellectual Property Watch: “One major concern about the ARIPO regulations is that they attempt to give more powers to the ARIPO office and undermine national sovereignty. The regulations for example oblige national authorities to accept the decision of the ARIPO office once it decides to grant plant breeders rights. This is in spite of the fact that the protocol gives national authorities the right to object to any plant breeders’ rights as granted by ARIPO.” “The regulations also further risk infringing on farmers’ rights by putting in place provisions requiring farmers, seed processors and certifications agencies to provide information and monitor the use of farm saved seed by farmers. All these are ways of intimidating farmers and infringing on their rights,” Mugambe added. “It is my hope the revised regulations take into account all the concerns that were raised by civil society actors such as those pertaining to national sovereignty and respect of farmers’ rights.” Sub-Committee Looks Ahead At the end of the review meeting, a special sub-committee was established to do the final review of the regulations as agreed by the experts. The sub-committee is made up of experts from Liberia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, and is chaired by Zambia. According to Fernando dos Santos, director general of ARIPO, “the document is being cleaned to take into account the discussions of last week. After that the document will be reviewed by the Technical Committee on Plant Variety and later discussed and adopted by the Administrative Council in December 2016.” ARIPO was created by the Lusaka Agreement of 1976, and currently has 19 African member states. Image Credits: Flickr Tim Hamilton, ARIPO Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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 Hillary Muheebwa may be reached at email@example.com."ARIPO Reviews Draft Regulations On Implementation Of Arusha Protocol On Plant Varieties" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.