Evaluation of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001

Written by: Eshti Kapoor

Introduction

To accommodate the foundation of a powerful framework for the assurance of plant assortments, the privileges of farmers and plant raisers, and to energize the development of new plant assortments, it has been viewed as important to comprehend and ensure the privileges of farmers in regard to their commitments made at any time to preserving, improving, and making accessible plant hereditary assimilations. The “Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV and FR) Act, 2001” was approved by the Indian government and given a one-of-a-kind framework.

The Indian government passed the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act in 2001. In 1994, India became a member of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS), which necessitated the creation of legislation. Article 27.3 (b) of this agreement mandates that member countries provide for plant variety protection by a patent, an effective sui generis system, or a combination of the two. As a result, member countries had the option of drafting legislation that suited their respective systems, and India chose to do so.

History of the Protection of Plant Varities and Farmers’ Rights Act[1]

After India joined the World Trade Organization in 1995 and agreed to implement the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act was enacted in 2001, and discussions took place in the country about how licensed innovation rights should be presented in Indian horticulture (TRIPS).

India had to choose between passing a law that protected the interests of cultivating networks and accepting the International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties’ system of plant reproducers’ privileges (UPOV Convention). The last option was ruled out primarily due to the fact that the existing UPOV adaption, which was adopted in 1991, prevented farmers from reusing ranch saved seeds and trading them with their neighbours.

In this vein, India included a provision on farmers’ rights in The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, which includes three legs:

  • Farmers are seen as plant raisers, and they can recruit the help of their assortments;
  • Farmers involved in the protection of hereditary assets of landraces and wild family members of financial plants, as well as their improvement through choice and safeguarding, are perceived and compensated; and three, farmers involved in the protection of hereditary assets of landraces and wild family members of financial plants, as well as their improvement through choice and safeguarding, are perceived and compensated; and
  • Guaranteeing farmers’ customary behaviour of conserving seeds from one harvest and using the leftover seeds for sowing in their next harvest or offering them to their homestead neighbours.

Objectives of the Protection of Plant Varities and Farmers’ Rights Act[2]

The following are the Act’s objectives:

  • To ensure the implementation of an effective system for plant variety protection;
  • To protect farmers’ and plant breeders’ rights;
  • To encourage investment in research and development as well as the expansion of the seed business; and
  • To ensure that farmers have access to high-quality seeds and planting materials of enhanced variety.

Implementation of the Act[3]

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, 2001, was established by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, to carry out the provisions of the Act. The authority’s main executive is the chairwoman. According to the Government of India, the authority comprises 15 members in addition to the chairperson (GOI). The Central Government appoints eight ex-officio individuals who speak to various departments/ministries, three from SAUs and State governments, and one delegate each for farmers, ancestral associations, seed industry, and women’s associations involved in horticultural activities. The Registrar General serves as the authority’s ex-officio member secretary.

An Analysis of the Protection of Plant Varities and Farmers’ Rights Act[4]

In light of these significant legal rulings, the following is a quick explanation and analysis of the different developments in the Protection of Plant Varities and Framers’ Rights Act:

  • Ambiguity Regarding the Sale and Propagation of Hybrid Seeds

The petitioners challenged the Registrar, PPVFR Authority’s order in Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co and Anr vs. Union of India and Anr[5], which said that parent lines of recognized hybrid varieties cannot be registered as “new” plant varieties under the PPVFRA. It was decided that if the hybrid comes under the category of an “extant variety” that is well-known, its parental lines cannot be considered innovative.

The Delhi High Court clarified a few points under the Act, the first of which is that a hybrid seed does not qualify as a ‘propagating material’ because it is incapable of regenerating any of the parent line kinds. While the Act does not define “harvested material,” it does define “propagating material”, which defines it as a plant or seed that can regenerate[6].

Furthermore, the court determined that the selling of hybrid variants that can germinate into either parent plant does not conform and so amounts to the exploitation of such plants. According to the petitioner’s interpretation of the Act, they would have exclusive rights to the hybrid and parent seeds for up to 45/54 years, which is much longer than the Act’s 15/18-year timeframe[7].

Despite the confusing phrasing of Section 15(3), the High Court utilized the mischief rule to rule against the petitioners. The court did so because it is well known that where a statute’s language is ambiguous, a purposeful interpretation that advances the Legislature’s goal must be used. The Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Right Act legislative objective is to protect the interests of farmers and plant breeders.

  • Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd & Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd BT Cotton Seed [2018 SCC OnLine Del 8326] – Patentability Dispute

In 2019, the Supreme Court overturned the Delhi High Court’s (DHC) decision that Monsanto Technology’s patents on BT cotton seeds were invalid because seeds are not patentable under Indian IP statutes. Monsanto sells genetically engineered cotton in India through Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd, a joint venture with Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. (MMBL). When Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL) continued to market genetically modified seeds after MBBL had terminated its licence with NSL, the case went to court. The Supreme Court overturned the division bench’s decision and reinstated the single judge bench’s decision[8].

  •  PepsiCo vs Farmers – Trademark Dispute

The Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Act was put to the test when PepsiCo India filed a lawsuit against four Gujarati farmers, seeking 1.05 crore each for “illegally” producing a potato variety registered under the Act and infringing on the company’s intellectual property rights. Farmers infringed on the firm’s patent rights by growing the potato variety used in Lays crisps, according to the corporation. PepsiCo has cited Section 64 of the Act, which states that no one other than a seed breeder or a registered licensee of a variety may sell, export, import, or produce it.

  • Seed Regulation

The Seed Act of 1966 lacks a suitable structure. The quality of commercially sold seeds in India is severely unregulated. Rapid changes in the seed and farming industries, such as the rise of private seed businesses and the gradual introduction of transgenic seeds, indicate the need for new regulations. In the absence of a law, the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Act plays a significant role in seed regulation.

In Emergent Genetics India (P) Ltd. vs. Shailendra Shivam[9], the Supreme Court stated that Indian farmers have been growing seeds locally for millennia and that agriculture is the primary source of livelihood and nourishment for the vast majority of the population. Around 75% of these seeds are grown by farmers and peasants themselves. The Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Act protects these farmers by allowing them to use, save, utilise, exchange, share, sell, sow, or re-sow farm produce, which includes seeds protected under the Act, among other things.

A breeder’s sale of any registered material must be reported to the farmer. This is done so that the farmer can forecast his or her performance and seek recompense if he or she fails to deliver. As a result, the act establishes a reasonable regulatory framework for places not covered by the Seed Act. It also safeguards agriculture’s integrity by prohibiting patents on seeds, which, if allowed, would deprive impoverished farmers of their livelihood as major corporations would take over and profit from the royalty.

Conclusion

The Government of India recently revealed the number of filings and enlistments by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority requesting assistance from various partners for expanded enrollment of new, surviving, and fundamentally determined plant assortments in their National Intellectual Property Rights Policy. It has also been emphasised that the authorities should establish links with Agricultural Universities, Research Institutions, Technology Development and Management Centres, and Krishi Vigyan Kendras in order to promote seed development and commercialization by ranchers.

It makes the authorities more capable of concentrating on techniques for mainstreaming enlisted ranchers’ assortments and granting reproducers’ rights to each concerned partner, as envisioned in the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001, and making India a forerunner in the execution of not only ranchers’ but also raisers’ privileges.

About the Author

Evaluation of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001

Eshti Kapoor

Student at Vivekananda School of Law and Legal Studies, VIPS.

She has participated in various academic events at VSLLS including successfully completing the Legal Drafting and Office Management Course at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. She has a keen interest in writing and has written many articles for various legal blogs. She is an author of “Equal Pay for Equal Work” Research Paper published at Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research (JETIR)


[1] Important provisions regarding the Protection of Plant Varities and Farmers’ Act, 2001, Ayush Verma, ( https://blog.ipleaders.in/important-provisions-regarding-protection-plant-varieties-farmers-rights-act-2001/ ) (Last Visited: 27.08.21)

[2] The Protection of Plant Varities and Farmers’ Rights Act of India, Pratibha Brahmi, Sanjeev Saxena, and B.S Dhillon, ( https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228968363_The_Protection_of_Plant_Varieties_and_Farmers’_Rights_Act_of_India ) (Last Visited: 27.08.21)

[3] Important provisions regarding the Protection of Plant Varities and Farmers’ Act, 2001, Ayush Verma, ( https://blog.ipleaders.in/important-provisions-regarding-protection-plant-varieties-farmers-rights-act-2001/ ) (Last Visited: 27.08.21)

[4] Analysis of Protection of Plant Varities and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 in Light of Judicial Decisions Laid Down by the Indian Courts, Pranavnayar, ( https://metacept.com/analysis-of-protection-of-plant-varieties-and-farmers-rights-act-2001-in-light-of-judicial-decisions-laid-down-by-the-indian-courts/ ) (Last Visited: 27.08.21)

[5] [(2015) 217 DLT 175]

[6] According to Section 2(r) of the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001

[7] According to Section 15(3) of the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Right Act 2001

[8] Monsanto Technology LLC vs. Nuziveedu and Ors AIR 2019 SC 559

[9] Emergent Genetics India (P) Ltd. vs. Shailendra Shivam 47PTC 494 (Del).

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