PPVFR Act 2001
The basic objective of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Act 2001 us to recognize and protect the rights of the breeders including farmers and stimulate investment for research and development in the public and private sector for the development of new plant varieties. This act has nine specific rights; of which the most important are summarized as follows:
Right to Seed
The PPVFR act gives farmers the right to save, use, exchange or sell seed in the same manner as they were entitled to before the Act. However, farmers may not sell the seeds of protected plant varieties in branded packages.
Right to Register Varieties
Any farmer or a commercial organization can apply for intellectual property rights over the varities they breed. If any farmer or commercial organization has develop a plant variety which is distinct in terms of genetic uniqueness, uniformity and stability; it has right to register it for intellectual property protection. Here, the law has included Farmer’s variety as a variety which has been developed by farmers in their fields.
National Gene Fund
The PPVFR act makes provisions to establish a National Gene Fund through which the conservation of varieties developed can be done, recognized and rewarded. This fund is made of the money as fees collected from plant breeders who are required to pay for benefit sharing. This money is used to support and reward the farmers who are engaged in plant verities conservation.
Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority
The act makes provisions to establish Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority which oversees the implementation of this act. This authority publishes the list of registered varieties and invites claims for benefit sharing. Any person, firm, governmental organization or NGO can submit claim to benefit sharing.
The Authority is to consist of a Chairperson and 15 members. One member is to be a representative from a national or state level farmers’ organisation, while one member is to be a representative from a national or state level women’s organisation working on agricultural issues. The seed industry and various government institutions are also to be represented. On the other hand, the farmers’ representative as well as the seed industry representative and the women’s organisation representative are to be nominated by the central government
Right to Information and Compensation for Crop Failure
The act makes provisions that the breeder must give information about expected performance of the registered variety. If such material fails to perform, farmers may claim compensation under the Act. This provision curbs the exaggerated claims of the seed companies and enables farmers to apply to the Authority for compensation if they suffer losses due to the failure of the variety [currentuser_id].
Curb on Undisclosed use of Traditional Varieties
If a breeder fails to disclose that the source of a variety belongs to a particular community; that community will get compensation from the National Gene Fund. Such claims can be filed by any individual, government organization or NGO on behalf of farmers. This provision is to compel the breeder to acknowledge the use of traditional knowledge or resources of the community.
Apart from the above, the act mandates the breeders to ensure adequate supply of seeds of his variety to public at reasonable price. The farmers are exempted from paying fees for registration of variety. Further, recognising the low literacy levels in India, the Act provides safeguards against innocent infringement on the part of farmers. Farmers who unknowingly violate the rights of a breeder shall not be punished if they can prove that they were not aware of the existence of breeder’s rights.
Analysis of the PPVFR Act
The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001 not only gives intellectual property protection to the plant breeders, but also upholds the legal space for farmers to save, use, exchange and sell the farm saved seeds.
However, the way this act was passed; it was able to attract wide attention and hot debates on rights of farmers for the first time in India. There was a lot of difference between the initially drafted act and the finally passed act; as the final act had not only included ‘Farmer’s Rights’ phrase in its title but also dedicated a whole chapter on this. The role of NGOs and other organization must be lauded here which forced the government to initiate wide-ranging dialogue with various stakeholders.