‘Global interpretation of how New Breeding Techniques would benefit horticulture’

The International Association of Horticultural Producers – AIPH, welcomed participants from around the world to an online seminar on Novelty Protection on Tuesday 19 January.

AIPH is the World’s Champion for the Power of Plants. Through our Novelty Protection Group, we advocate a strong and effective plant breeders’ rights (PBR) system, encouraging innovation through breeding and rewarding quality of the propagating material, so that new varieties will be produced and will be available for growers.

Opening the meeting and introducing our keynote speaker was Tim Edwards, Vice-President of AIPH, and Chair of the AIPH Ornamentals Production Committee. He gave his insights about nature’s adaptations, saying that humans have guided this process for a long time, selecting plants and animals with desirable characteristics, thereby influencing life. We have seen benefits in food production and enhanced beauty of our world. Recent advances in technology enable us to focus on deliberate adaptations of plant genetic structure and performance, and the seminar reported on how these are influencing plant breeding.

New Breeding Techniques (NBTs) challenge the ethical and legal frameworks surrounding breeding of new and improved plant varieties. John McMurdy, Director for Emerging Markets and Development Partnerships at Crop Life International, presented the current situation relating to the adoption of NBTs.  He pointed out the differences between NBTs and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and the critical importance of distinguishing between the two techniques and the products that arise from them. NBTs have the potential to make significant advances in plant breeding that could be achieved by conventional breeding and selection, yet happen very much faster. Benefits that NBTs bring include disease resistance, higher yields, stress tolerance, and enhanced nutritional value. All are valuable improvements for people and the planet and do not involve the novel combination of genetic material that defines GMOs.

Policies worldwide differ greatly in how NBTs are perceived, which hampers the introduction of new varieties into commercial production. In many countries, Dr McMurdy explained that a policy does allow a clear path to market, and an aligned global interpretation of NBTs would benefit agriculture and horticulture.

The seminar concluded with a presentation by AIPH Novelty Protection Advisor, Ms Mia Buma, in which the latest rulings and court decisions were explained. AIPH keeps members updated on new developments and policies related to Intellectual Property and breeders’ rights, responding to opportunities to contribute to policy improvements and amendments in the UPOV Plant Breeders Right’s system on behalf of the global ornamental horticulture industry.

Ms Buma says, “The positive outcomes for agriculture and horticulture in using NBT should be enough to force a more proactive legislative stance to regulate the use of NBT with clear IP-rules. Recent discussions within UPOV to clarify the principles of essentially derived varieties is a positive step forward.”

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