MORENA Introduces New Bill to Foster Protection for Plant Varieties
A congressman representing the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), Mexico’s ruling party, has recently prepared a bill to amend the Plant Varieties Law. Following the agenda of the recently elected President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, MORENA stated that the rationale behind the proposed bill is as follows:
- Mexico needs to increase productivity of essential crops, such as corn, wheat, rice and beans.
- Current law does not address recent technological developments, such as those to improve genetics and plant identification. Access to new and better plant varieties of these crops is key to Mexican agriculture and ensure enough food storage for a Mexican population on the rise.
- Strengthening sanctions and improving measures and proceedings is needed as a way to reduce seed piracy and illegal seeds, which results in deception and damage to Mexican farmers. It is estimated that piracy has caused losses of around USD 80 million to seed manufacturers, plus damages to farmers and soil.
- The bill will foster relevant sectors of Mexican agriculture, for example, berries and flowers. The berries sector accounted for around 300,000 jobs as of 2016 and achieved exports close to USD 1.8 billion as of 2017. By having access to new varieties, these ornamentals will consolidate their huge potential in the US market, which has an estimated value of USD 1.3 billion.
- According to the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and the EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement, Mexico needs to upgrade its current Plant Varieties Law according to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Act of 1991 by improving term, scope and enforcement of exclusive rights.
To improve protection standards that foster investment in innovation, the bill includes the following:
- Granting a greater protection terms to plant varieties: 25 years for perennial species, which includes forest and fruit trees, vines and ornamentals, and their rootstocks; and 20 years to all other varieties;
- Granting powers to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office (PBRO) to provide opinions regarding new plant breeding methods;
- Providing a greater scope of protection, which includes not only propagating material but also the product resulting from the harvest;
- Incorporating the concept of “essentially derived variety” to encourage innovation and provide certainty on stakeholders;
- Introducing technological tools that will help applications and enforcement actions, such as requesting plant breeder rights to provide a plant variety’s fingerprint;
- Improving powers of the PBRO to prosecute and to decide infringement actions.
The bill signals that the ruling party wants to improve production of key crops in Mexico and that it is committed to promoting an environment of innovation and investment. However, the bill still needs to get through the legislative process, during which adjustments may be made and it may meet some opposition. Formal adjustments to provide better rules to enforce plant breeder’s rights would be welcomed. If the bill receives approval by both the lower and upper houses of Congress, it is expected to come into force by the third or fourth quarter of this year.
OLIVARES’ team will continue to comment, monitor and report on this bill and will keep clients updated on the most relevant developments.