- By Dr. Pa Pa Win
In a world where an ever-increasing population is in continuous need of food, the earth’s many resources are being utilized. As a result, impact on the environment and the species that reside within it has been detrimental. This poses a challenge to feed the world as scientists and laymen alike adapt and find methods to incorporate our survival requirements so that it does not threaten the life of other beings.
Methods include introducing new varieties of plants through science so that they are better to withstand the harsher temperatures caused by global warming as well as provide better yield for the lowest impact on the environment while keeping costs low.
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) protects farmers and plant breeders so that they can work towards developing and providing new varieties of plants.
Established in 1961 in France by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plant, the Union is now headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland with a total of 75-member countries. The convention was revised in 1972, 1978 and 1991.
There are regional groups under the Union such as the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) created in 1994 in Europe, the African Intellectual Property Organization created in 1999 by African Countries and the East Asia Plant Variety Protection Forum (EAPVP) for the Asian region. The regional organizations often come together to discuss new discoveries, share findings and help each other with research development.
In 2007, ten ASEAN countries got together in an East Asia Plant Variety Protection Forum (EAPVP) including Myanmar. The main objective of the organization was to help bring the mission UPOV to fruitarian so countries can work together to develop new varieties of plants for better food security and as a result, an overall benefit to society.
Benefits of adopting the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plant
Myanmar is not the only country that relies on its abundant natural resources such as timber, seafood and agricultural products. If countries work together collectively and adopt principles to protect the environment in their socioeconomic policies, the benefits are tremendous.
New developments in research can also provide plant species that provides better yields and reinforce the economic power of farmers as well as give the customers better choices for their selection.
Examples include the more nutritious iron rich rice/ vitamin rich rice, biotic stress resistant species that fare better with pest infestations and the species that can withstand the changes in seasons and temperatures. Creation of such plant varieties also helps the environment such as the air and soil quality of the area as farmers are able to use less pesticides/insecticides as plants prove to be more resistant.
The international network for the Union is also vast and very well-connected which provides a platform for collaboration efforts between countries.
The New Plant Variety Protection Law was also introduced and adopted by Myanmar on 20th January 2016. This was a much-needed law to encourage the creation of stronger and better-quality plants that satisfies not only the needs of the farmers to provide better yield, improving their economic standings as a result.
The Ministry of Livestock, Fishery and Irrigation of Myanmar also created a New Plan Variety Protection Department under the Agricultural Research Department to enforce and encourage a systematic and ethically sound approach to the Law in May 2016. Now, farmers and plant breeders can apply to protect their corn, sugar canes, avocados, and rice.
New Plant Variety Protection Law 2019
Myanmar is currently working towards being a full-fledged member of the UPOV to participate in the international research network in addition to providing better pathways to invite investors in the agricultural sector.
The New Plant Variety Protection Law 2019 is under development is awaiting the final approval of the Parliament so that the law can be implemented. The Law abides by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plant that was passed in 1991. The Union Parliament is now accepting discussion papers regarding this law with submissions open to the public.
Translated by Myat Thu