UPOV Approves Budget, Explains Contribution To SDGs; Civil Society Disagrees 06/11/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment 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 International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) met a few days ago and took a number of decisions, such as approving its budget for the 2018/2019 biennium, adopting a document describing the union’s contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the extension of the appointment of its vice secretary general. Civil society, however, has issues with UPOV’s take on its contributions to the SDGs. They also reiterated their request that farmers be included in UPOV’s decisionmaking. Plant breeding UPOV held a series of meetings of its governing bodies at the end of October. The organisation’s Council met on 26 October. The Council approved its Program and Budget for the 2018-2019 Biennium [pdf]. The adopted budget anticipates an income of CHF 6,940,000 (US$ 6,932,000), a 1.7 percent increase compared to the 2016/2017 budget, and an increase in the number of staff posts from 11 to 12. According to the proposed program and budget, UPOV is almost exclusively financed by income from contributions, which represented 98 percent of the total income in the 2014/2015 biennium. The value of the contribution unit has not increased since 1995, the document says. Separately, UPOV has benefitted from additional financial resources provided by members of the Union, according to the document, in the form of “Funds-in-Trust” (earmarked) and support in-kind provided by members in the form of expert contributions to UPOV’s activities. Increase of Plant Variety Protection According to the release, the number of applications for plant variety protection increased by 9.6 percent (from 15,017 in 2015 to 16,455 in 2016). Titles granted increased by 1.1 percent (from from 12,409 in 2015 to 12,550 in 2016). There are currently 117,427 titles in force in 2016. Contribution to SDGs According to a UPOV press release [pdf], the UPOV Council adopted a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document on how the UPOV system of plant variety protection contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. The UPOV system encourages the development of new varieties of plants, the FAQ says, “therefore adding to diversity.” The “breeder’s exemption” contained in the UPOV Convention “enables plant diversity to be available for further breeding activities. This reflects the fact that access to protected varieties contributes to sustain greatest progress in plant breeding and, thereby, to maximize the use of genetic resources for the benefit of society.” The FAQ says the UPOV system has particular relevance in relation to SDG Goal 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere), Goal 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture), Goal 9 (Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation), and Goal 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development). Civil Society Disagrees with FAQ on SDGs The Association for Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APBREBES), an observer at UPOV, told Intellectual Property Watch after the meeting that the assumption that the “tremendous progress in agricultural productivity… is largely based on improved varieties, together with improved farming practices,” is not backed up by evidence, and improved varieties may or may not be protected plant varieties. Sangeeta Shashikant for APBREBES also said the association has issues with the affirmation in the FAQ that plant variety protection supports long term investment in breeding and provides a framework for investment in the delivery of seed of varieties suited to farmers’ needs. Where is the evidence that plant variety protection supports long term investment in breeding in developing countries and that it delivers varieties suited to farmers’ needs, she asked. According to Shashikant, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform varieties. There is thus no evidence that new varieties per se add to diversity, she said. A Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) publication (Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture) [pdf] underlines the need for formal recognition that can be given to the use of traditional crop varieties.”The increasing domination of a few seed companies in providing seeds of major crops has led to concern at loss of diversity and to continuing pressure on farmers to abandon traditional varieties,” it says. Interrelation with Plant Treaty, Farmers’ Rights in Question For some time, UPOV has been looking into possible interrelations with the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The Council last week agreed to review the FAQ on those interrelations, and invite an exchange of experience and information on the implementation of the UPOV Convention and the ITPGRFA, with the involvement of stakeholders. APBREBES said in a statement that the ITPGRFA recognises the right of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed, the right to participate in decision-making, the right to fair and equitable benefit sharing, and the right to protection of traditional knowledge. This is contained in Article 9 (Farmers’ rights) of the treaty [pdf]. However, the representative said, UPOV’s examination of the plant variety protection of several developing countries leads to the deletion of provisions that safeguard farmers’ rights, such as the right of small-scale farmers to exchange and sell farm-saved seeds. The representative cited a 2015 study published on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, which said “UPOV 91‐based PVP laws were found to not advance the realisation of Farmers’ Rights; rather they are effective in the opposite direction.” The group called for UPOV to revise UPOV’s Explanatory Note on Exceptions to the Breeder’s Right under the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention “to allow smallholder farmers complete freedom to operate with regard to protected varieties.” The representative also pointed out what the association views as a lack of farmer participation in UPOV, illustrating this view with the lack of farmer representatives as speakers at a symposium [pdf] on possible interrelations between the ITPGRFA and UPOV, which took place on 26 October 2016 (IPW, UPOV, 16 November 2016). Concerning farmers’ rights to fair and equitable benefit sharing, the representative said UPOV’s “position rejecting or recommending deletion, of disclosure requirement in PVP legislation perpetuates inequity and is unacceptable.” New Member, Members to Be Bosnia and Herzegovina joined UPOV on 10 October. The UPOV Convention now covers 94 states. According to the release, the UPOV Council made a positive decision on the conformity of several plant variety protection legislations with the provisions of the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention. Newcomers to the system can only join the 1991 edition of the Convention, which is the latest. Positive decisions were given by the Council on the law of Brunei Darussalam, the draft law of Guatemala, and on the draft law of Myanmar. Vice Secretary-General Mandate Until 2021 The appointment of Peter Button, UPOV’s vice secretary general and effectively the day-to-day leader of the organisation, was extended from 1 December 2018 to 30 November 2021. Button [pdf], a United Kingdom national, was first appointed as vice secretary-general of UPOV on 1 December 2010. He previously held the role of technical director at UPOV since 2000. ITPGRFA Governing Body Meeting, Calls For Farmers’ Inclusion Separately, the Seventh meeting of the ITPGRFA Governing Body took place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 30 October -3 November. Farmers were following this as well. In a press release, Andrew Norton, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and Alejandro Argumedo, coordinator of the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP), said the meeting is “a crucial opportunity for governments to ensure local farmers are actively involved at the highest levels in protecting seed varieties.” They called for action to make sure local farmers have control over access to seeds and to protect their rights. Image Credits: – Flickr – Dean Calma – IAEA 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 Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."UPOV Approves Budget, Explains Contribution To SDGs; Civil Society Disagrees" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.