Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Chilean Seed Industry

Marcel Bruins, the new Secretary General of the International Seed Federation (ISF), has recently visited Chile. One of the reasons for visiting was to see at first hand, the country's seedling which enjoys strong export growth. In fact, Chile is the main exporter of seeds in the Southern Hemisphere, with shipments of $ 382 million last year.

Another reason for his visit was to pressure Chile to sign the last convention that regulates intellectual property – plant varieties, known as UPOV 91. Chile had already signed the 1978 version of that convention. However, the 1991 is said to protect and defend intellectual property rights in seeds of plants much better. It introduces a number of important definitions, including "variety" and "breeder." Also it has developed the concept of "essentially derived varieties", in which any exploitation is subject to the authorization of the breeder of the original variety.

As in every story, there are two sides: seed companies say that this innovation is encouraged, but some farmers claim that their costs will increase. Yet, Marcel Bruins argues that farmers have much more to gain. He mentions that a strong system of variety protection ensures that breeders and the seed industry obtain a better return on their investment. He also adds that farmers will also benefit because they are able to buy improved varieties, which are easier to harvest, because they are more resistant to diseases (need less chemicals) and they are of better quality, so they can sell at higher prices. Moreover, with higher production comes a greater profit.

For more info read an interview made to Marcel Bruins by the magazine El Campo.

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