UPOV’s 2016 Autumn Session - Upcoming Issues


UPOV member states and observers will be meeting in Geneva between 24th and 28th October for UPOV's Autumn session. Its main rule-making body, the Consultative Committee (CC) will meet on 27th, while the UPOV Council, its highest decision-making body, on 28th October. The Administrative and Legal Committee (CAJ) is scheduled for the 25th October. The interested public can attend two events: On 24th October, the Seminar on propagating and harvested material in the context of the UPOV Convention is held, while on 26th October, the Symposium on possible interrelations between the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention) will take place.

Generally the proceedings of the CC are closed to observers.

A major issue that will be considered by the CC is the “International System of Cooperation”. If the CC approves the projected "Mandate and Terms of Reference of a possible ISC Working Group", a first meeting would be held on the same evening. However, the need for an ISC, which was proposed in 2014 by industry associations, failed to be established, according to some UPOV member countries.

For more background information on the proposed International System of Cooperation:

Multinational seed industry pitches for further harmonization in UPOV (TWN 2014)

A simple “agreement” proposed to accommodate Industry’s UPOV-plus demands (TWN 2015)

Vague Results Question the Need for Harmonized PVP Filing System in UPOV (APBREBES 2015)

On the interrelations with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), the Consultative Committee will, at its meeting on the day following the Symposium, consider the outcome of the Symposium and consider any possible further action concerning interrelations .

For a more detailed account of the discussions in the spring 2016 meeting of Consultative Committee see ‘Outcome on FAO Treaty/UPOV inter-relations, far cry from expectations’ (TWN, April 2016).

See also APBREBES Press Release ‘UPOV’s Symposium on Interrelations between ITPGRFA & UPOV, Inadequate to Implement “Farmers Rights” Resolutions’ (April 2016).

The Symposium on Possible Interrelations between ITPGRFA and UPOV itself will be held on 26th October. The programme includes five presentations analysing the interrelations , one of them by Sangeeta Shashikant, Legal Advisor, Third World Network International Secretariat, Malaysia. Sangeeta is the President of APBREBES. Further, experiences of the Contracting Parties in Implementing the UPOV Convention and the ITPGRFA will be presented by Canada, the European Union, Kenya and Norway. Finally, the offices of UPOV and the ITPGRFA will each provide an overview of initiatives involving the ITPGRFA and UPOV.

Under the agenda item "Communication Strategy", the CC will discuss draft "Frequently Asked Questions" regarding the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Further, a document on UPOV's growing Training and Assistance activities will be tabled.

The CC and Council will also consider the evaluation report of the WIPO Independent Advisory Oversight Committee. It suggests for UPOV a "Strategic Business Plan". One of its objectives is to identify additional funding resources.

The Administrative and Legal Committee (CAJ) will discuss new drafts of two Explanatory Notes that have been on its table since several years. One concerns the Draft 7 of the Explanatory Notes on Essentially Derived Varieties revision, on which the European Seed Association and the International Seed Federation will make presentations.

The other one concerns Draft 6 of the Explanatory Note on Propagating Material under the UPOV Convention. The understanding and definitions of propagating material varies considerably among the member states. The UPOV Conventions do not provide a definition of “propagating material”. Industry has been pushing for a broad and prescriptive definition of “propagating material” in order to have more opportunities to enforce their plant breeders’ rights.

An earlier draft of the Explanatory Note was considered at the previous CAJ meeting. Industry associations had all endorsed a proposal of the International Community of Breeders of Asexually Reproduced Ornamental and Fruit Plants (CIOPORA) for wording that all plant material with a capacity to reproduce could be seen as propagating material and be subject breeders’ rights. In future however, almost any plant material could be used for reproduction, as an industry representative in an earlier UPOV session had explained with regard to certain plant tissue culture techniques. 

Thus, from the point of view of the industry associations, any harvested plant material could be considered as propagating material. Attempts to revise the Explanatory Note on Harvested Material had failed in 2014. CAJ had agreed that for the time being it would not be appropriate to develop a revision of the “Explanatory Notes on Acts in Respect of Harvested Material under the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention”. However industry continues to push for a revised Explanatory Note that serves its interests.

Thus, the issues of propagating material and harvested material will be jointly discussed at the “Seminar on Propagating and Harvested Material in the Context of the UPOV Convention”. Speakers from academic institutions and judicial authorities will provide perspectives on the subject. CAJ members and observers have been invited to propose speakers. One of the invited speakers, the representative of the global smallholder farmer association La Via Campesina, Guy Kastler, was proposed by APBREBES.

Another issue on the agenda of the CAJ is "Molecular techniques". The CAJ will discuss a report of a recent meeting of the Working Group on Biochemical and Molecular Techniques, and DNA-Profiling in Particular (BMT). It includes cooperation with the OECD, the International Seed Trade Association (ISTA) and ISO, as well as the use of molecular markers for the enforcement of plant breeders' rights in international trade. See also

Susanne Gura, APBREBES (May 2015) Working Paper: Global, Profitable, Secret? DNA Fingerprints for Enforcement of UPOV’s Plant Variety Protection