D-Day for genetic resources in Europe?

'Breeding progress will be hampered in future by EU Regulation'

The Nagoya Protocol providing rules on access and benefit-sharing (ABS) as well as the EU Regulation implementing the Protocol for the EU enter into force on October 12, 2014.
 
The EU Regulation implements only the so-called ‘compliance pillar’ of the Nagoya Protocol and sets the framework within which users’ compliance should be controlled by competent authorities designated by the Member States. The core element of the EU Regulation is the ‘due diligence’ obligation which requires users to ascertain that their access to and use of genetic resources is compliant. Mainly, this requires seeking, keeping and transferring information on the genetic resources accessed. While this may sound simple, in practice for plant breeding – given the very high number of genetic resources used in the creation of one single plant variety - it is almost impossible as it will create an enormous administrative burden, specifically for SMEs. Since the scope of the EU Regulation is very widely defined it will also jeopardize the principle of free access to all genetic resources for further breeding, a fundamental principle of plant breeding which is also enshrined in the international UPOV Convention, in the EU’s plant variety rights legislation as well as in the unitary patent.
 
Speaking at the association’s Annual Meeting in Lisbon, Garlich von Essen, Secretary General of the European Seed Association stated: “Breeding progress will be seriously hampered in the future by the EU Regulation. Especially our small companies which form the vast majority of Europe’s seed sector will find this impossible to comply with.”
 
Europe’s plant breeders clearly prefer the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT PGRFA) and its specific ABS system which is based on the principle of multilateralism and provides a system which is predictable and simple. The IT PGRFA takes well into account the specificities of plant breeding, including the open-source access it is based on.” von Essen explains this preference.
 
However, the IT PGRFA does not apply to all plant genetic resources and is currently facing challenges as regards its financing mechanism. To enable the IT PGRFA to continue functioning and to let it further evolve, solutions are needed and currently are being discussed. “The European seed industry is very committed to proactively contribute to this process and this topic features high on the agenda of ESA’s upcoming General Assembly on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal.” von Essen underlines the importance of the subject for ESA.

For more information 
European Seed Association
Ana ASCENÇÃO E SILVA, Manager Communications
T: +32 2 743 28 60

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