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Plant Breeding

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the potential of effective competition legislation to tackle monopolies of rights relating to plant varieties by private sector companies. (79790)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government consider that the UK’s system of plant breeders’ rights already provides adequate provisions to address any potential anti-competitive practices. The UK’s system is based on the 1991 Convention of the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the UPOV Convention) enabled by the Plant Varieties Act 1997 (the Act).

Plant breeders who hold rights exercise control over their protected varieties in order to enable them to recoup development costs and to fund further breeding programmes. Although this is necessary for the development of this sector, there are exceptions to their rights:

i. Section 8 of the Act provides that breeders’ rights do not extend to acts done for either private or non-commercial purposes, for experimental purposes, or for the purpose of breeding another variety, and;

ii. Section 17 of the Act makes provision for compulsory licences to be granted to third parties where the Controller of Plant Variety Rights is satisfied that this is necessary to ensure that the variety in question, is available to the public at reasonable prices, is widely distributed, or is maintained in quality.

These provisions ensure that plant breeders’ rights are not monopolistic.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the recommendations of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR), how the Government are promoting (a) through the Treaty of Amsterdam Article 133 committee and (b) at the meeting of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, the rights of countries (i) not to grant patents for plants and animals, including genes and genetically modified plants and animals and (ii) to provide for the rights of farmers to save and plant-back seed and to allow informal sale and exchange of seeds; and if he will make representations to revise the Convention on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants to support the CIPR’s recommendations. (79796)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government have no immediate plans to make representations through either the Treaty of Amsterdam Article 133 Committee or the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), which deals with systems of plant variety protection but not patents, to promote the recommendations of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR).

In their response to the CIPR report, the Government stressed their commitment to the effective protection of intellectual property rights to stimulate continued innovation. The Government do not regard this as incompatible with the interests of developing countries in respect of plant variety protection or the rights of farmers to plant farm-saved seed which are afforded protection by Article 27.3(b) of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and Article 15 (2) of the 1991 UPOV Convention respectively.