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Absence of IPRs protection threatening food situation in country

Pakistan is expected to receive foreign direct investment worth $500 million within the first year of implementation of Plant Breeders Rights Act (PBRA), as more than two dozen leading European seed companies are looking for commencing local operations, an official source said.

The PBRA was recently approved by the parliament and still needs two months more for implementation across the country. Overall the country took 18 years to approve the legislation which was first introduced in the parliament in 1998 to counter the challenges emerging from the global trade under WTO.

Stagnating crop production, low commodity exports and fears of food security, all forced Pakistan to implement Plant Breeders Rights Act (PBRA). It will help attract much-needed foreign direct investment in the research and development of new plant varieties and transfer of technology in the seed sector to set the pace for modernizing the agriculture sector, an agriculture expert said.

There is no doubt the PBRA will encourage novelty, distinctness, uniformity and stability. It will spur research activity in the public sector as at present they don’t have any incentive in research and development of new varieties, officials said.

Ministry of National Food Security and Research is pursing for the early implementation of the act as without IPRs protection, multinationals are not ready to invest in local seed production. They have fears of theft of their material, Minister for National Food Security Sikandar Hayat Bosan recently told the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture.

The implementation of PBRA and the Seed Amendment Bill will enable the seed industry to perform a viable and vibrant role. Pakistan plans to give Plants Breeder Rights {PBR) certificates of 25 years tenure in case of trees and vines and 20 years in case of other plants, the source said.

Despite a large agrarian economy, Pakistan has small formal seed industry. The experts estimate that the country has the potential of $1.5 billion per annum seed industry. Initially the country planned to implement PBRA in 1999 under the TRIPS agreement. However, the inter-provincial disharmony led to its delay for over 18 years.

“If you calculate the loss in economic terms, it runs in over hundreds of billions of rupees per annum but the major loss of non-recognition and protection of IPRs in agriculture is the emergence of the threatening food security situation”, said an official linked with the developing of the draft act.

The need to expediently implement PBRA was necessitated due to the production losses to the main cash crop of the country, cotton, whose production declined from average of 14 million bales in 2014 to 10 million bales in 2015 and same production level is estimated for current year.

Agriculture experts have warned that the cotton production was on the decline due to low seed productivity. Absence of IPR protection was the main impediment in the introduction of BT cotton varieties in the country. India had introduced BT cotton a decade back and its production increased from less than 14 million bales to over 24 million bales.

Source: Pakistan Today

Byline: Amer Sial

November 30, 2016

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