Project title: Agribusiness: The Future of Plant Breeding in the Light of the Developments in Patent and Plant Breeders Rights
Researcher: Jared Onsando
Jared Onsando has worked as a plant genetic resource manager in the area of variety release, protection and seed certification at Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). He has several years of experience in the technical examination of new crop varieties for the purposes of granting plant breeders’ rights and the commercialization of the improved varieties. His focus areas for examination were on novelty as well as Distinctness Uniformity and Stability (DUS). Jared coordinated the development of national crop test guidelines for conducting DUS tests which generate descriptors for carrying out seed certification and crop maintenance in Kenya. He was also the technical officer responsible for the management of the national crop variety list, plant breeders’ rights registry and the liaison officer to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).
Jared holds a Master of Science degree in plant breeding from the University of the Free State South Africa. His dissertation interrogated the relationship between high molecular weight glutenin subunits and baking quality in South African bread wheat cultivars. He also holds a certificate in Intellectual Property Rights and Genetic Resource Management from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. His research interest lie in the future of plant breeding and the dynamic landscape in patent and plant breeders’ rights protection.
Host Institution: Maastricht University; Degree Partner: University of Alicante
Traditionally plant breeders have relied on Plant Breeders Rights. Despite the advent of biotechnology, however, many new varieties do not fully address the two main criteria present in the patent system, namely novelty and inventive step. After all, plant breeding relies heavily on improving other breeder’s work by means of selection and cross-breeding. The technological promise of biotechnology is that climate change, disease and plant efficiency can be much better addressed through biotechnology, rather than through plant breeding. The strengthening of IPR on plants, more specifically biotechnological plant-related patents are heavily criticised by certain civil society interest groups. To them plant patentability is not just a technical matter but also an ethical one. The argument is that the patent system has originally been designed for mechanical inventions and should not be applied to living organisms like plants. Yet increasingly the system of plant breeders rights and biotechnology interact and overlap, and agribusinesses are striving to come up with a more holistic vision that can integrate the two systems. ESR 5 is to provide an overview of the different forms of IP rights available for plants products in Europe, the US and developing countries like India, and its differences; to critically assess the socio-economic implications of each system; to make recommendations that could be applied in Europe to balance the interests of right holders and the public and to foster innovation that is societally accepted.
A clear overview of what the advantages and disadvantages of each system of protection are; tools on how the European system could be amended in order to better balance the different interests involved, such as patent pools, and innovation that is societally acceptable.
Planned secondment(s): Community Plant Variety Office, and European Seed Association