Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Intellectual PropertyRights (IPR) and seed industry of Pakistan

By : Muhammad Mahran Aslam and Asif Saeed

Agriculture,being an important sector of Pakistan, isconsidered the backbone of our economy. It contributes about 21.4% to GDP of the country and provides the employment for about 45% of the total labour force and also help for the development of some other economic sectors (Economic survey of Pakistan 2012-13). It is a fact that quality seed is essential for the sustainable agriculture. In Pakistan seed of high yielding varieties, as a result of Green revolution, reached in 1960s. Pakistani farmers share and exchange their seed for the crops grown on their field. For example in case of “Wheat” 90% of the seed grown on the farmers’ fields is their own seed. Formal sector including both public and private sector provides only 10% of the seed grown. Some Private Companies and Multinational Companies are dominating the Pakistani seed industry so they want the farmer totally dependent on them for seed. For this hybrid seed technology was introduced in seed production. It grows well but cannot reproduce so farmer cannot re-sow the seed next year. He has to buy new seed every year. Seed for the most of the horticultural crops, fodders, forages, vegetables and oilseed crops are imported from other countries. Traditional verities are evaporating and farmers have to rely on the newly developed varieties for better production. These companies are trying to produce hybrid seed of the crops like Rice, wheat and Cotton. Farmer would be bound to purchase quality seed every year because some Multinational Seed Companies like “Monsanto” has developed some techniques like terminator and traitor seeds.
Pakistan is the signatory to WTO (World Trade Organization) and under the TRIPs agreement of WTO it is necessary to provide protection to plant varieties. For this purpose plant breeder’s right (PBR) act is present. This PBR damage the farmer’s systems like seed saving for the next sowing year, seed sharing and exchange system by providing monopoly to the seed producers.
During 1947-61 there was no system for seed production and distribution in Pakistan. In1961 first time West Pakistan Agricultural Development Corporation (WPADC) was established for the production and distribution of seeds in the country. In 1972 WPADC was terminated and government initiated the 1976 Seed Act. Under this act an infrastructure was developed under the authority of “Ministry of Food, Agriculture & Livestock” (MINFAL) Islamabad; National Seed and Provincial Seed Council were developed. Federal Seed Certification Agency (FSCA) and National Seed Registration Agency (NSRA) are also the part of the seed system of Pakistan.
The International agreements, for the regulation of seed use and its distribution worldwide and the farmers all over the world, are TRIPS and UPOV acts.
Basic Facts about the TRIPS Agreement;Enforced from 1 January 1995 and obligatory for all WTO member states. Involves obligations for seven areas of intellectual property rights available for all fields of technology, Provides first worldwide system of IPR on biological diversity, especially on plant varieties, Needs application of either patents or an “effective sui generis”(Latin word meaning unique or of its own kind) system, to protect (i.e. gain monopoly rights over) plant varieties at national level, Must be put into practice in developing countries by the year 2000, Must be implemented in least-developing countries by the year 2005.The TRIPS agreement has allowed monopolistic control of life-form, spread of uniformity and destruction of diversity.
Since Pakistan is a member of WTO, so it has to develop a Plant Patent Rights law or a Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) Act. The Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department (FSC&RD) is responsible for the development of a sui generis system for formulation and implementation of PBR laws. Pakistan finds Plant Breeder’s Rights more appropriate for protection. Pakistan became a member of GATT in 1948. Pakistan has developed PBR act in 1999 which will stimulate foreign investment and transfer of technology in seed industry. The Department keeping in view the traditional background of our farming community, where on the whole 80% of the farmers use their own farm saved seed or through farmer to farmer seed exchange in cereals, pulses and oilseeds. Article 27.3 (b) stated that “Members states shall provide protection of plant varieties by Patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination of these”.
 Pakistan is a member of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 1994 together with more than 171 other countries.Plant Quarantine work is done by Plant Quarantine Division in the Department of Plant Protection, which has the legal authority and management responsibility. The organizational arrangements are as per Article IV of the International Plant Protection Convention, 1997. The Pakistan Plant Quarantine Act 1976 and Rules 1967 enforced through which the country is protected from the entry and spread of exotic insect pests and disease and trade of plants and plant products is facilitated. Pakistan is signatory of WIPO and on October 6, 1976, submitted its instrument of accession to the WIPO. Pakistan established IPO-Pakistan and Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) simultaneously and activated Pakistan Customs against IPR violations. The main aim of the establishment of IPO-Pakistan particularly was to address the institutional lacks that were obstruction to the effectiveness of intellectual property.
It is concluded that seed is considered to be a comparatively low price input, because farmers usually sow their own saved seed and purchase seed once in three to five years. A large number of countries are signatories to different agreements like UPOV and TRIPS, having conflicting intentions. Pakistan is also signatory to TRIPs. The PBR will give domination to the breeders of national and multinational companies. The Third World Network and African countries are in opposition to the patenting of seed, whereas the SANFEC is asking for the abolition of PBR on the whole, from TRIMS. Pakistan should join hands with these organizations at International forum to prevent its future from the governance of the North.

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