Strengthening of Plant Variety Protection (PVP) through Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) and testing for Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS): visit to IP Australia
The Ministry of Food Security & research along with IPO-Pakistan have presented the Bill on Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) to the Cabinet of Pakistan for approval and enactment. As part of this Bill, The Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department (FSC&RD) is responsible for conducting testing on the Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) for the registration and protection of Pakistan’s plant varieties.
The TRTA II programme took the opportunity of the presence of the FSC&RD staff in Australia to arrange for a 2-day visit (04-05 December 2014) to the PBR offices at IP-Australia in Canberra, with the purpose of discussing DUS testing system in Australia and the implementation mechanisms for PBR at IP-Australia. In addition IPO-Pakistan and FSCR&RD were asked to furnish IP-Australia with a set of key questions on DUS testing and PBR issues for which guidance/opinion was sought after from the PBR examiners in Australia.
Mr. Nik Hulse, Senior PBR examiner welcomed the delegation in IP Australia office. He informed briefly about the IP Australia and PBR in Australia. Dr. Ali Abbas Qazilbash, Program Officer TRTA-II, gave detailed information about the EU-funded TRTA-II program and the support provided by the program to FSC&RD and for IPO Pakistan and the status of PBR Bill in Pakistan. He also emphasized that the TRTA II programme wanted to establish strong coordination with IP Australia for capacity building for PBR administration and DUS testing. Mr. Hulse said that IPO-Pakistan and FSC&RD should contact the Director General, IP Australia to build future collaborations. He went on to explain that delegations of PBR examiners from China, Vietnam and other SE Asian countries often visit IP-Australia to receive comprehensive and extensive training on DUS and PBR procedures.
Mr. Nazar Iqbal, the focal person for DUS testing at FSC&RD then briefed Nik on the PBR Bill. and the associated Federal Seed Act (1976). This Act has not been revised/updated, approved by The Cabinet and submitted to Parliament for enactment. According to PBR draft bill and the revised Seed Act, FSC & RD will be responsible for DUS testing of the varieties.
To the questions raised by FSC&RD and IPO-Pakistan, Nik gave a series of presentations which led to futehr dicussins and answered the relevant questions raised.
Main outcomes of the discussions are given below:
- IP-Australia uses the PBR law to protect plant variety. PBR addresses the phenotype/visual presentation of the plant where as Patent Law addresses the genotype – the genetic make-up of the plant that gives it the unique characteristics reflected in the phenotype i.e. PBR – variety/outlook, Patent – molecular composition
- IP-Australia: PBR Registry & DUS examination is addressed under separate administration
- PBR offices of IP Australia have 5 examiners on their direct payroll aid to support these 5 examiners they have 250 qualified persons (QP) who are trained to supervise/conduct DUS trials in the field. Qualifications of the 5 examiners and QP: Science-based University degree (Biological or Agricultural Sciences) and experience in setting up DUS field trials
- PBR/IP Australia has many training modules that it uses to help other developing countries in strengthening its PBR requirements and DUS examination. Hans-holding/observing and accompany the PBR examiners to DUS trials in the field (duration ranges from 2 weeks to one month). At the time of meeting a delegation from Vietnam was visiting and prior to that IP-Australia facilitated a month long training protocol for Chinese officials on PBR & DUS examination
- FSC&RD has to ensure that it has all the necessary equipment and system in place to carry out the required tests. The three labs at FSC&RD (Seed Health, Seed Purity & Seed Germination) receives accreditation status from PNAC and confirms its ISTA membership through certificate of accreditation from ISTA
- In addition, following the approval of the PBR Bill and its enactment of the law, the FSC&RD needs to revise its own Seed Act to reflect its role in line with the PBR law, ISTA and UPOV requirements
- IPO-Pakistan is strongly advised to strengthen its HR and recruit qualified persons as examiners. These individual must have the request background knowledge (Science/Agriculture based degrees) and then along with FSC&RD have witnessed a couple of DUS field trials. Only after this has been done can a comprehensive training tour to IP Australia be arranged through some other sourced funding.
- The TRTA II programme recommends that IPO-Pakistan, after enactment of PBR & revision of Seed Act, reconsider Pakistan’s membership of UPOV and succession to the convention in order to maximize its benefits and mobile resources from other donors to fund future activities.
- IP-Australia is also willing to explore future endeavors. Chairman/DG IPO-Pakistan may write directly to DG IP-Australia to explore avenues of collaboration.