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Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FR)

Topics Covered: IPR related issues.

Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FR)

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features of the act and the need for protection of farmers’ rights.

Context: A document which food and beverages giant PepsiCo India cited to support its charges against Gujarat potato farmers earlier this year is being revised by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Authority (PPV&FRA), following complaints from major farmers groups.

What’s the issue?

The Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ document had claimed that “only small and marginal farmers involved in subsistence farming” are eligible to claim rights under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001. The FAQ also said these rights are not for “commercial farmers” and are only meant for “small scale” use.

  • PepsiCo has used the same argument in an ongoing case at the Authority over its registered potato variety used for Lays chips. The company has also cited the FAQ document to justify dragging more than nine farmers to court in 2018 for growing and selling its registered variety.
  • The company faced product boycotts and major protests across the political spectrum for slapping a ₹4.2 crore lawsuit against four farmers, and ultimately withdrew all cases after government intervention just before Lok Sabha elections in May 2019.

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001:

  • Enacted by India in 2001 adopting sui generis system.
  • It is in conformity with International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), 1978.
  • The legislation recognizes the contributions of both commercial plant breeders and farmers in plant breeding activity and also provides to implement TRIPs in a way that supports the specific socio-economic interests of all the stakeholders including private, public sectors and research institutions, as well as resource-constrained farmers.

Objectives of the PPV & FR Act, 2001:

  1. To establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of plants.
  2. To recognize and protect the rights of farmers in respect of their contributions made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of new plant varieties.
  3. To accelerate agricultural development in the country, protect plant breeders’ rights; stimulate investment for research and development both in public & private sector for the development new of plant varieties.
  4. Facilitate the growth of seed industry in the country which will ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.

Rights under the Act:

Breeders’ Rights: Breeders will have exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the protected variety. Breeder can appoint agent/ licensee and may exercise for civil remedy in case of infringement of rights.

Researchers’ Rights: Researcher can use any of the registered variety under the Act for conducting experiment or research. This includes the use of a variety as an initial source of variety for the purpose of developing another variety but repeated use needs prior permission of the registered breeder.

Farmers’ Rights:

  1. A farmer who has evolved or developed a new variety is entitled for registration and protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety;
  2. Farmers variety can also be registered as an extant variety;
  3. A farmer can save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001 in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act provided farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001;
  4. Farmers are eligible for recognition and rewards for the conservation of Plant Genetic Resources of land races and wild relatives of economic plants;
  5. There is also a provision for compensation to the farmers for non-performance of variety under Section 39 (2) of the Act, 2001 and
  6. Farmer shall not be liable to pay any fee in any proceeding before the Authority or Registrar or the Tribunal or the High Court under the Act.

Sources: the Hindu.