Benefits of the UPOV system

In 2005 the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) published a study entitled “UPOV Report on the Impact of Plant Variety Protection” which examined the benefits on several countries that implemented domestic laws based on the UPOV framework.

The study found improvements in four key areas:

a) Increase number of new varieties

b) Improvement of varieties

c) Introduction of foreign varieties

d) Improvements in domestic breeding

Increase in the number of new varieties: A general trend was demonstrated that after the introduction of a plant protection law based on UPOV, the number of new varieties being released increased. This was true not only for staple agricultural crops such as barley, maize, rice, soybean, and wheat, but also horticultural crops and ornamental plant varieties. The net benefit is that it offers increased choice to farmers in obtaining new and improved plant varieties, and an increased diversity of food products that are available to consumers.

Improvement of varieties: A trend was observed in many countries showing improvements in the performance of new varieties when compared to older varieties. The adoption rate by farmers of improved new varieties increased dramatically in some situations. For example, in Argentina the use of certified seed increased from 18% to 82% for wheat varieties, and 35% to 94% for soybean varieties during the period between 1994 and 2003.

Introduction of foreign varieties: The report showed an almost universal trend of foreign breeders (non-resident) seeking protection of their varieties in countries that have just became new UPOV members. One of the key elements of UPOV membership is the concept of “national treatment and reciprocity”. What this means is that a breeder residing in any UPOV country can apply for protection in any other UPOV member country. This promotes the introduction of new plant varieties into many different markets and jurisdictions, offering farmer’s choice and diversity in the varieties they use. This also supports domestic breeding programs as under the mandatory “experimentation and breeder exemptions” anyone can conduct scientific studies and use protected varieties to breed new varieties. As such, the introduction of new plant varieties by foreign breeders can be an important source of genetic diversity for domestic breeding programs.

Improvements in domestic breeding: This study showed a general improvement in two areas of domestic breeding; a) an increase in the number of breeding entities and varieties, and b) a diversification in the types of breeders. Some interesting trends emerged in many of the countries where the number of breeding entities in both the public and private sectors increased with adoption of a UPOV based law. In addition, the diversity of those breeding activities appeared to increase, releasing more new varieties. The study also showed that the diversity of plant breeding activities also increased with a UPOV based law. For instance, the Republic of Korea showed not only an increase in rice breeding, but diversity in the types of entities engaged in this activity; a) individual rice breeders (farmer breeders), b) university researchers, c) government researchers, and d) private commercial breeders with adoption  of a UPOV based law.