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Cultivating legal changes to protect new seed varieties

DATE:2015-03-18       SOURCE:China Daily

Proposed amendments to the law regulating seed varieties will heighten protection and be "a step forward in the seedling intellectual property sphere", said a senior official during this year's National People's Congress.

Liu Zhenwei, vice-chairman of the NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, told a press conference last week that "seeds matter because they are at the core of competitiveness in agriculture."

The current law that took effect in 2000 has to be revised to adapt to changes in the sector, Liu said.

Amendments to the draft of a new Seed Act might be sent to the NPC standing committee for approval in April, Zhang Fugui, another NPC official, said at a seedling industry forum in Changsha, Hunan province last September.

Vice-Chairman Liu said amendments to the law will focus on research, protection of new plant varieties, supervision of the seedling industry and seed variety certification, "providing a legal guarantee for building up a modern seedling system".

Like industrial products, seeds also need quality evaluation and certification before they are put on the market, he noted.

China's certification system for seed varieties began as pilot programs in some provinces in the 1960s and then expanded to the entire country in the 1980s.

More than 21,000 varieties of crops and some 5,300 varieties of trees have since been certified.

"We were short of food in the past so yield was a priority in certification standards. Back then, less attention was paid to the varieties with an edge in fighting insects or disease. It is a fault in the system," Liu said.

Also, in some cases, fairness in evaluation is not ensured, he added.

"We will address all such problems in the law's revisions," he said.

In response to complaints in the industry that the variety approval process is too long, Liu said the revised version will "reduce application traffic" from varieties that need review from 28 categories to just five.

At the same time, large seed companies will be authorized to use national standards for evaluation on their own rather than joining the already long queue for uniform certification by designated organizations, he said.

Those companies will then be responsible for the authenticity of their own evaluation, he noted.

"In the case of fabrication and fraudulent results, they will face sky-high fines and be disqualified," he said.

Changes are needed because "our system has yet to play an active role in stimulating original innovation", Liu said.

Despite a large number of researchers involved in developing seed varieties, not enough of the results manifest real creativity, he said.

"It may take years or more than a decade to develop a variety as an originator, yet copycats take it away, just adding some decorative changes in details and then apply for a new variety - it is a deadly blow to original innovation," he said.

The new Seed Act will increase protection of original developers and help increase motivation for innovation, he said.


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