NASC to set up Biosafety law to protect property right of Nigeria’s plant breeders

Stakeholders in the agricultural sectors have reviewed and validated Plant Variety Protection (PVP), laws targeted at the protection of Plant Breeders Right (PBR).

The Director General, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo, during a meeting organised said the meeting was organised because the council discovered that there is the need to bring up a law that would protect the property right of breeders since there was no existing law that could protect the intellectual property of breeders in Nigeria.

According Dr. Philip “A nation’s agricultural sector can only advance when farmers of the country have access to available crop varieties that can give the best yield and resist/tolerant various stresses that confront agricultural plants on the field today.

“It suffices to say therefore that a country’s agricultural system can only advance, as far as its system of breeding which churn out the best genetics to its farmers permit. When farmers have access to highly efficient varieties, they will enjoy bumper harvest and have higher economic returns from their little effort because of the use of high yielding and stress tolerant varieties.

“We in NASC believe that a strong PVP system is one vehicle that can help the NASC achieve its vision of creating a Seed system in Nigeria that is market driven capable of producing and distributing high quality and improved planting materials that are available, accessible and affordable to all farmers.

“This will make the our mission of transforming the Nigerian Seed system into a leading Seed industry in Sub-Saharan Africa worthy of generating foreign exchange, key employer of labour and contributing positively to the country’s economy and government vision of a Green Alternative a reality”.

Stakeholders at the expert review meeting on plant variety protection legislation (Plant Breeders Right- PBR) also stated that the law will halt the exodus of Nigeria plant breeders outside the country for a greener pasture. They said the law will protect Nigeria breeders intellectual properties and encourage them develop in the sector.

The Acting Director, Partnership and Linkages Programme, of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Mr Yarama Ndirpaya, said the law is an important tool in the agric sector because it give ownership of varieties to those that create them. Saying it is done so that scientist that spent their time allover to bring up something good will earn royalty for it.

“It is a subset of the Intellectual Property Rights that is practice in agriculture. Because without those, anybody can just come into the country and mine our genetic resources and go with them. But when our genetic resources are documented and protected, who ever takes them will pay patent right.

“So we will stop genetic piracy by having our genetic resources protected. Plant Variety protection is part of the seed law and does not apply to only bio-modified seeds, it is to protect the naturally God given genetic resources in our country.”

Also the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Principal Programme Officer, Agriculture, Mr Ernest Aubee, commending Nigeria for the initiative said the law is very important for countries like Nigeria and the ECOWAS region because it is meant to protect intellectual property of West Africa, and to protect the rich genetic materials the region is blessed with.

“As you know, we have slots of plant varieties, some of them have left the continent to Europe and America, additional research work has been done on this varieties, patented and commercialised, so if we can protect the intellectual property of our plant breeders in the continent, it will go along way on our food security, health, trade and economic,” he said.

He revealed further that the Commission has worked very hard on having a Biosafety law, which will regulate the movement of genetic materials into the region. The law according to him is to protect the region agricultural potential, the environment and health of the citizens because, “you can not just allow anything to come from the outside, and your people consume it and you don’t look at the negative impact or connotation of such material.

“So we have a law that would be passed very soon by the political authority of ECOWAS, So we are addressing that, it is a very important issue.”

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