At a meeting in late October, a committee of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) agreed to revisit the Explanatory Note on Essentially Derived Varieties — a move that should end in applause, but a great deal of work still needs to happen.
A number of organizations representing plant breeders say this is too narrow and open for interpretation. One such organization is CIOPORA, an international community of breeders of asexually reproduced horticultural plants. CIOPORA brings together plant breeders, national breeder associations, intellectual property experts and consultants from 27 countries to develop, improve and harmonize national and international plant variety protection systems.
In a position paper, CIOPORA recognizes that some want to limit the Essentially Derived Variety (EDV) concept to varieties, which can be distinguishable from the initial variety by a very limited number of characteristics. But the organization leaders say this interpretation limits the EDV concept as far as possible and does not achieve UPOV’s objective to create a balance between biotechnology inventors and traditional breeders and to bring mutations under the scope of protection of their initial variety.
“Taking into consideration that an EDV per definition must be clearly distinguishable from the initial variety, which requires as a minimum a difference in one characteristic. Under such interpretation, only varieties which have exactly one difference compared to their initial variety could be considered to be an EDV,” explains Edgar Krieger, CIOPORA secretary general. “This approach does not support innovation.”
Other organizations supporting this view include the International Seed Federation, CropLife, EuroSeeds, Asia-Pacific Seed Association, the African Seed Trade Association and the Seed Association of the Americas.
After a year of inaction by UPOV’s Administrative and Legal Committee to take up this topic, these organizations together submitted to UPOV a joint letter, pointing out that the narrow approach to the EDV concept may “greatly endanger the breeding incentive and could possibly lead to a diminution of (…) breeding effort …”
It wasn’t until after a seminar on the impact of policy on EDVs on breeding strategy as part of UPOV’s 76th meeting at the end of October that UPOV concluded there is evidence that the current UPOV guidance does not reflect the breeders’ common practice in understanding EDV and the implementation of the EDV concept has a direct impact on breeding strategies. As such UPOV’s guidance must foster progress in breeding to benefit society.
Furthermore, the committee recognized the evolution of breeding techniques has created new opportunities and incentives for predominantly deriving varieties from initial varieties, more rapidly and at a lower cost.