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A Differentiated Approach to Plant Variety Protection in Africa

Authors: Bram De Jonge & Peter Munyi 

Several African countries and regional organisations are investing in the establishment of a plant variety protection system modelled on the UPOV 1991 Convention, which currently provides the strongest, international standard for plant variety protection.Whereas proponents argue that strong protection of breeder’s rights will incentivize breeding and the introduction of new varieties for farmers, opponents fear that the proposed legal framework is unsuitable for African countries as it may hamper traditional farming practices of using and exchanging farm-saved seed.

These informal or farmer-managed seed systems supply more than 80% of the total food crop seed used by farmers. The challenge for African countries is to strike a balance between protecting the interests of breeders through the incentive function of plant breeder’s rights for the commercial market, and the leeway that needs to be provided to smallholder farmers that depend on informal sources for their seed security and survival. And to do so in a practical and legally enforceable manner.

This discussion paper explores plant variety protection from an Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) approach by looking at the potential benefits and drawbacks of a PVP system for different seed systems. Given the current interest of the African regional IP and trade organisations in UPOV 1991, this Convention will be the main reference point in this analysis.

The authors propose a differentiated approach to plant variety protection, which sets different levels of protection for different crops in relation to different categories of farmers, in order to support both commercial and farmer-managed seed systems.

Read and Contribute: 

Readers are invited to comment on the proposed approach by sharing their opinions and suggestions by posting comments below. The comments will be responded to by the authors, and readers are invited to join in the discussions. All comments and suggestions will directly feed into the further positioning on matters of PVP within the national and regional ISSD programs. Reader and author comments can be found at the bottom of this page.

You can access the discussion paper on the SSRN website, through the link on the right side of this page.

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