FANRPAN Policy Brief Series 02/07

Status of Plant Variety Protection (PVP) in the SADC Region 
A synthesis of FANRPAN country reports on the status quo and need to implement plant variety protection regulatory systems 
By: Dr. Wynand J. van der Walt, FoodNCropBio 

FANRPAN Policy Brief Series 02/07The corner stone of intellectual property protection lies in Article 27 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 

"…it guarantees everyone's right to the protection of moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he/she is the author". 

The need to extend intellectual property rights (IPR) protection to new plant varieties was acknowledged almost a hundred years ago but a formal international Convention on plant breeders’ rights only saw the light in 1961 when UPOV (the Union for Protection of New Plant Varieties) was established. In Africa, only four countries are UPOV members, while 16 West Africa states are jointly covered under OAPI (the African Organization for Intellectual Property). In the remaining 35 plus countries, neither farmer selections nor plant breeder varieties are protected. These countries also have limited access to improved varieties from other countries. A draft model law, the SADC Protocol on Plant Breeders’ Rights, now facilitates a harmonized approach to rectify the absence in most member states of protection for new plant varieties. 

Objective of study 

The basic objective of the FANRPAN study into plant variety protection (PVP) systems in five target SADC countries was to establish an overview of the status of legal protection of ownership of plant varieties, as well as experience, benefits and deficiencies in these systems. The study also attempted to quantify impact of adoption or non-adoption of plant variety protection systems. This review is a discussion document to support the SADC Protocol, develop policy proposals for SADC member states to comply with the World Trade Organization Trade Related Intellectual Property (WTO-TRIPS), and find ways to assist members in the process. 

Issues addressed and approach 

The approach was to analyze regional and international documents, and to update the information through personal interviews and visits to relevant parties in South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Available information on other countries was also obtained. The study covered existing and draft PVP legislation, number of varieties or Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) lists, and experience with and impact of PVP. South Africa has had patent and trade mark legislation since 1915, became the tenth UPOV member in 1978, and has also made extensive use of contracts and licensing. Also, it was easier to source South African information as the author has extensive personal contacts, while government information could be obtained from websites. Therefore, much of the statistical content of this review relates to South Africa.