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The importance of protecting new plant varieties

  • 01 January 2010
  • Articles

The huge progress experienced in agricultural productivity over the last few years, is partly due to the creation of new improved plant varieties, which in turn increases the capacity to commercially exploit these crops.

The plant selection process is long and costly; however, reproducing a variety is relatively quick and easy. This is where the importance of protecting all improved varieties arises in order to prevent Biopiracy and encourage the development of new varieties to society’s benefit.

In the Agricultural-Food Sector applications are in full technological development in order to genetically improve species, and increase the production and quality of harvests and crops.

They are also used to create varieties resistant to plagues, herbicides and insects, and for protection against microbial or viral infections, as well as to obtain varieties that tolerate the stress caused by extreme environmental conditions. Another use is to obtain secondary metabolites (pigments, essences, pesticides, vaccines, etc.)

In the same way that inventions are protected under certain modalities of Intellectual Property, new plant varieties, in which many R&D and innovation resources are invested, can and should be protected.

A Plant Variety Certificate grants a period of exclusivity during which only the holder can produce, reproduce, sell or use the product, whereby the plant varieties’ period is longer than that of patents: 25 years for herbaceous plant varieties; 30 years for wood and vine varieties.

There are two protection channels: National and Community. In this last one, the Plant Variety Certificate will protect the variety in all member countries via a single application presented in any of the official EU languages.

For a plant variety to be liable for a protection certificate it must meet various requirements: a) the variety must be new, it cannot have been sold or transferred with the plant breeder’s consent.

Otherwise, it cannot exceed the period stipulated by law: one year, if the sale/transfer took place in Spain; or four years if it was abroad (six years in the case of vines); b) the variety must be different by one or more characters as regards other widely-known varieties; c) it must be stable, that is, after successive propagations its most relevant characteristics must remain intact; d) homogeneity, varieties of the same generation must be sufficiently uniform as regards their specific characters. In order to verify that a variety actually meets all these requirements, it is necessary to carry out a series of field classification tests.

Once the plant breeder’s rights have lapsed, the variety will enter the public domain, which means that any third party will be able to use it without the need to request an exploitation license from the holder.

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The importance of protecting new plant varietiesThe importance of protecting new plant varieties