Sent: 05 April 2001 08:54
To: '[email protected]'
Subject: Re: Liability for biotech products in developing countries
My name is Jan Wendt and I am currently working as an Associated Professional Officer on systems for protection of IPR and access to genetic resources at the FAO Regional Office for Latin-America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile.
I am following the discussion with great interest and wanted to give some comments on the message of Ancha Srinivasan posted on Monday, 02 April regarding the case of the Canadian farmer (an interesting view on that issue, comparing the farmers' and Monsantos' version could be found in: http://www.motherjones.com/news_wire/schmeiser.html).
In my point of view it is very difficult to decide who is to blame in that specific case. Very often a huge public mobilization occurs to defend a "poor farmer" against an "evil giant" and very often the opinions and reasons given by the defenders are based just on the view of one side. The possibility that the Canadian farmer cultivated on purpose Monsanto's variety (as often occurs) was not even taken into consideration.
I am not taking any sides, but I am also aware of the problems the seed companies have. Their biggest problem is (at least in Latin-America), that a lot of farmers are illegally cultivating and commercializing protected varieties, misusing the "farmers' exemption" provided by plant variety protection law in all Latin-American countries (all based on International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention of 1978 or 1991). If they don't pursue violations of their IPR they are soon going to lose control of what is happening with their new varieties and won't be able to sell them.
I find it really hard to believe that Monsanto, or any other seed company, raises a trial against a farmer just because he didn´t want to buy and cultivate their variety - as a method of pressure, so to say. Firstly, I think that the bad publicity of that case (justified or not) demages Monsanto more than they gained with a succesful trial and secondly, I believe that the seed companies would not be able to sell their products if the majority of the farmers were not convinced of the advantage in buying the products under the given conditons.
Seed companies and farmers depend on each other and therefore they should work together and respect each others rights. A good example of an alliance between the industry and farmers is the case of barley production in Uruguay: Budweiser sells the seeds of their special barley variety to farmers and buys the harvest from these farmers on a basis of a contract to brew beer. In that way it is impossible to violate IPR of the variety (there wouldn't be any market for the farmers who illegally cultivate the variety) and the "legal" farmers have a stable market to sell their products.
Jan Wendt, APO
FAO-RLC, Santiago de Chile
Teléfono: (+56 2) 337 22 44
[Note: In this conference, we do not want to focus too much on the specific details of the Canadian court case involving Monsanto and Percy Schmeiser, but rather on the potential implications that such cases might have for farmers in developing countries....Moderator]
[To contribute to this conference, send your message to [email protected] For further information on the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture see http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp ]