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Plant Variety Rights Bill To Grow NZ Agriculture

Plant breeders are pleased to see the Plant Variety Rights Bill introduced into Parliament this week. The current legislation is some 34 years old and dates back to 1987.

The reform bill is required under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that obliges the Government to align our plant laws with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 91 convention. UPOV 91 is in operation with our key trading partners and signatory countries such as Australia, Canada, Mexico and Japan.

Overall, the Bill aims to better safeguard intellectual property rights pertaining to the breeding of new plant varieties.

Two priority areas for plant breeders include confirming a seed royalty fee for farm saved seed and beefed up sanctions that can deter infringers.

On the former, the bill paves the way for acknowledging the longstanding practice of farmers saving seed for their own use. In return and where the saved seed is a protected variety plant breeders will be seeking a fair and equitable remuneration though the payment of a royalty fee.

“Having the ability to collect a royalty fee would help new investment into the development and release of new and improved crop varieties that are less susceptible to various pests, resistant to disease, more productive and profitable for farmers” said says David Green, President of the Plant Breeding and Research Association.

Plant breeders say they look forward to engaging with farmer groups to work through transition arrangements and refining the royalties collection mechanism.

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A strengthened penalty regime in respect of infringements of breeders’ rights is also being sought by the industry. Breaches of the industry’s intellectual property rights threatens innovation and the livelihoods of breeders and farmers alike.

“We support the bill as it will be the first comprehensive review of the PVR Act since the 1980s and demonstrate to the world that NZ has robust plant protection laws.

“When passed the new legislation should build breeders confidence and encourage the introduction of more improved varieties for the benefit of farmers and make New Zealand more competitive” says Mr Green.


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