The World Trade Organization was founded in 1994, and this ushered in a worldwide IPR regime for plant varieties. Concerns about the freedom to innovate were made by this consolidation of rights in the seed industry.
Plant-breeders’ rights and patents are the two types of IPR security that are available in agriculture. Together, they limit the freedom of farmers to create novel varieties using germplasm from varieties that have IP protection.
Farmers-led seed distribution and conservation methods will result from the open-source strategy used in the seeds industry. In India, farmers are involved in numerous efforts for the conservation and sharing of traditional varieties.
Points to ponder:
Patents and plant producers’ rights: Plant-breeders’ rights (PBR) and patents developed, especially in the US, as a result of the emergence of hybrid seeds, scientific plant breeding, and other factors. These privileges enable the owners to lawfully enforce intellectual property rights and demand royalties on seeds. (IPR). In some circumstances, the owners of the rights can also limit the unauthorized use of seeds to create new types.
IPR security in agriculture: Plant-breeders’ rights and patents are the two main forms of IPR protection in this industry. Together, they limit the freedom of farmers to create novel varieties using germplasm from varieties that have IP protection. The quantity of plant varieties with IP protection has grown as a consequence.
High prices for genetically modified seeds and IP claims have given rise to several issues and problems, including the state’s involvement in India’s Bt cotton seed program. The demand for options increased as public-sector breeding decreased and the private sector took control of the seed industry.
Open-source seeds: An alternative strategy that permits the unrestricted interchange and use of seeds is the open-source model for seeds and plant varieties. The approach, which encourages innovation and cooperation among farmers, researchers, and other stakeholders, is founded on the tenets of open-source software.
Open-source seeds in India: The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) in India has created an open-source model that involves a contract between CSA and the person or organization receiving the seed or genetic material. This strategy can be used by farmer-led seed conservation and distribution networks to encourage farmer participation in plant breeding activities and traditional variety conservation and sharing programs.
Farmer varieties: Farmers in India who fulfill certain requirements may register “farmer varieties” under the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001. They are allowed to exchange, replant, and reuse seeds, but they are not allowed to breed or deal in varieties that are legally protected by the Act for profit.
Benefits of open-source seeds: By encouraging experimentation, adaptation, and acceptance, open-source principles can assist in overcoming the shortcomings of conventional varieties. This model could support farmer-led efforts for traditional variety preservation and sharing as well as cooperative plant breeding, all of which would be advantageous for India’s food security and climate resilience.