5 big agrichemical/seed companies now three..
Dow and Dupont have merged
Bayer buying Monsanto..China CrisisGuatamala and Monsanto law The 'Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,' called the 'Monsanto Law' for its seed-privatization provisions is part of a free trade agreement that requires signing countries to adopt the law and adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties. What happens when small farmers in Guatemala save seeds from one year to the next, as they have for centuries? There are penalties of 1,000 to 10,0000 quetzales (US$130 to $1300) for anyone who reproduces seeds that are patented in Guatemala. They get up to four years in prison. However in August the Constitutional Court (CC), the highest legal body of Guatemala, provisionally suspended the entry into force of the law. But now Monsanto is saying the law is required under free trade deals, and it's likely only a matter of time before it launches a wave of lawsuits to force Guatemala to give in. Chip in to help the fight against Monsanto
Latest TTIP news
Chatham House Conference on the new Trade Deals June London
The WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) requires member states to provide protection for plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis (stand alone) system, or a combination of the two. Most countries meet this requirement through UPOV Convention-compliant legislation.
Patents can include the creation of synthetic (not naturally occurring) plant breeds. Patents not only protect the particular design of an invention, they also protect against deviations from that invention as well.
The EU is signed up to UPOV which recognises plant breeder’s rights (PBRs). In each country the breeder submits seed to a national centre who confirm that the variety is new, distinct, uniform and stable. PBRs are then conferred for 20 or 25 years.
There are significant differences in approach between plant breeders’ rights and patents.
PBRs: In the case of plant breeders’ rights, the eligibility requirements for protection are not onerous, but the scope of protection granted is quite narrow, both in terms of exclusive rights and the various exceptions and limitations to those rights.
Patent laws strike a very different balance. Eligibility requirements are high and difficult to meet, but once granted a patent conveys broad rights to exclude third parties from exploiting the patented invention.
Plant breeders' rights contain exemptions from infringement that are not recognized under patent law. Commonly, there is an exemption for farm-saved seed. (with PBR) Farmers may store the production in their own bins for their own use as seed, but this does not necessarily extend to brown-bag sales of seed. Patents prevent anybody growing the seeds they have produced themselves. More from FAO. When the autumn sown barley of 2012 did not grow because of the freezing conditions in the winter, some farmers used their own seed to resow as a spring barley. If it was PBR protected, that was fine. If patents governed the seed, it was not.
TTIP (TAFTA)Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed Free Trade Area between the United States and the European Union. Most of the negotiations are going on without any public input. Despite little 'freeing up' to do, the deal will focus on non-conventional barriers such as 'freeing up' regulations regarding digital rights, fracking, seeds, and finance while tightening laws on copyright. More.They concluded second round of negotiations in November 13 GMOs are not affected (see Q8) although they clearly are a target. European Commission communication strategy IATP: Promises & Perils of TTIP for agricultural market
It is clear that big business is going to have its say, as evidenced by the dinner organised by the MEP rapporteur in charge of the operation. MEP Invitation to Dinner ESA - v similar invitation Corporate Europe Comments. According to Olivier de Schutter the UN Rapporteur for Food Rights: "Leaked drafts of intellectual-property proposals show an obstinate US effort to require patent protections for plants and animals, thus going beyond the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. The US stance could further restrict farmers’ access to productive resources, thus affecting the right to food. And such proposals would limit governments’ options when addressing wider food-related human-rights issues." Trading away human rights
There is tension over the relationship between patent rights (US) and plant breeder's (EU) rights. There has been litigation in Australia, the United States, and Canada over the overlap between such rights. These cases were decided on the principle that patents and plant breeders' rights were overlapping and not mutually exclusive. Thus, the exemptions from infringement of plant breeders' rights, such as the saved seed exemption, still infringe the patents covering the same plants. ie you can save and replant plant breeder’s seeds, but not patented seeds. Likewise, acts that infringe the plant breeders' rights, such as exportation of the variety, would not necessarily infringe a patent on the variety, which only allows the patent owner to prohibit making, using or selling the patented invention. The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that breeders could apply for both forms of protection with respect to the same variety. Such a result is prohibited by the 1978 UPOV Act but permitted under the 1991 Act - to which the U.S. is a party.
EU Proposal on SeedsIs this other EU initiative about seeds anything to do with these proposals. ?......
EU are proposing (late 2013) a new single Directive to control seed marketing. The European Parliament is setting new rules, which is important for all players in the food chain: seed savers, farmers and the seed industry of course, but also environmentalists, consumers and the agro-industry at large. The proposed EU legislation on seed marketing (12 directives),is going to be turned into a single regulation for all member states.1 This narrows the scope for interpretation at a national level,. More from Corporate Europe
"The proposal creates an environment providing legal security for professional operators and consumers, guaranteeing high quality of plant reproductive material and securing competitive advantage on the internal and the world markets". Q&A It says that two of the aims are to:
-- Enhance biodiversity and opportunities for niche markets through less stringent and simplified requirements for old varieties and heterogeneous plant material, and for small producers;
- Make the rules more compatible with policy aims such as sustainable intensification of agriculture and the conservation of biodiversity
The regulations were drafted by the Commission's consumer affairs bureau DG Sanco, but were opposed by the executive's agricultural and environment bodies, DG Agri and DG Envi.
The commission proposes five pieces of legislation to replace and clarify existing regulation, over 70 legal texts governing the European Union's food chain. The package includes rules to better prevent and eradicate pests and animal diseases across the union and to toughen up controls and penalties against food fraud.
Environmental groups have taken aim at one part of the proposal that regulates the production and marketing of seeds and other "plant reproductive material," such as young plants and tubers. At present, companies have to register seeds in each country where they want to sell them; under the new law, procedures valid in one member state would automatically be recognized across the European Union. This would make the variety registration process faster and more conducive to innovation, the commission says. Exludes testing and seed banks.
But groups like the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and the Soil Association say that the proposal perpetuates criteria for "distinct, uniform and stable" varieties that favour large companies producing homogeneous seeds. And, that annual registration fees would be prohibitive for small companies, pushing them out of the E.U. market. "The plans play directly into the hands of larger corporations that prioritise mass-production of monoculture seed varieties, at the expense of diversity," José Bové, a Green member of the European Parliament from France, said in a statement.
Bruno Henry de Frahan, a professor of agricultural economics and policy at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, counters that the commission's proposal has taken these concerns into account by introducing "positive discrimination" measures to bolster smaller breeders and farmers. Registration rules would be lighter for traditional seeds, and so-called "niche" material—sold in small quantities and adapted to local conditions—would be exempt from registration rules if they are marketed by companies employing less than 10 people. "If European consumers want this kind of organic or traditional products, market prices will reflect this preference".
European MEPs overwhelmingly voted DOWN these proposals in March 2014 By 650 to 15 the proposals were rejected in Parliament. Opponents of the regulations maintain that they were drawn up under intense pressure from lobbyists, and stand to benefit a small number of large seed houses, at the expense of small farmers and breeders.
The EU Greens presented a report in EU Parliament which showed that just five companies control around 95 percent of the vegetable seed market and a similarly high percentage of field crops. The findings of the report, which was produced by transparency organisation Corporate Observatory Europe and farming group CSM, jar with claims from the Commission and seed industry that the market is made up of around 7,000 mainly small and medium-sized seed businesses, working under the few larger companies.
 J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred, 122 S. Ct. 593, 2001