Oct. 14, 2016
The National Congress in Argentina is currently debating making changes to the seeds laws.
Seeds are a key agricultural input, and farmers have to pay high prices when they choose seeds with the latest technology to achieve maximum performance.
Royalties and fees for the use of biotechnology act as an incentive for stimulating innovation and ongoing research, which benefits producers and is essential for the advancement of agricultural science.
Future laws should combine the collection of royalties when the seed has incorporated biotechnology patented by another company. The system should be simple for the farmers and easy to audit. The rights of all participants in agricultural production should be harmonized to end the illegal trade in seeds.
The reform is necessary because the current legislation on seeds was enacted in 1973, predating the development of biotechnology. Current laws protect the intellectual property of those who conducted research and developed a new plant variety under a special category---the "breeder's right"---to protect the germplasm. The law protects their invention, granting them the exclusive right of exploitation for two decades.
In addition, the law provides for the "right of the farmer" as an exception to the right of ownership, allowing producers to reserve and sow seeds for their own use. There are no limits on the volume of seeds that can be reserved or the number of times the farmer can replant, and the obligation to pay any compensation or royalties has not been set.
With such a broad exception, the breeder's right is blurred.