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The Vincentian Parliament, on Thursday, passed legislation to protect the intellectual property of breeders of new plant varieties in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). 

Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar said the Plant Breeders’ Protection Bill, 2019 was a “trailblazing piece of legislation” that brings into focus “how we have to always marry our quest to develop the agricultural sector with the best science”.

But, in his response, shadow minister of agriculture, opposition lawmaker Roland “Patel” Matthews, said the opposition had no fundamental objection to the introduction of such legislation in SVG.

Matthews, however, said that while the agriculture minister did not mention marijuana, he (Matthews) believes that the new law can have implications for local strains of cannabis.

Matthews, who is Member of Parliament for North Leeward, noted that under the law, a person does not have to reside in or be a citizen of SVG to apply for a plant breeder’s right.

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“So while there are advantages, I am concerned about the fact that it is a new thing for us, and while our local farmers are expect[ing] to benefit, I am hoping that the day will not come when we have an industry in St. Vincent flourishing for years, and we have to come back and ask for permission or buy seeds, for example, to plant whatever we are planting.”

Saboto Caesar
Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar. (iWN file photo)

Caesar told lawmakers that the law protects the intellectual property of persons who are engaged in plant breeding.

It also sets up the jurisprudential framework within which these persons will be able to accrue the rights, how these rights will be protected, how they will be published so that persons in the entire society, in the court and globally, can be aware of the hard work which was done, the agriculture minister said.

“This doesn’t affect the farmers who are going to reproduce some of these varieties on their own land,” he further stated, adding that the law also brings into focus marrying with the best science, the nation’s quest to develop the agricultural sector.

“Some persons may wish to divorce agriculture, which is a science, from the deep scientific work which should be involved. And this is not only for agriculture. It is also for fisheries and the other productive sectors that we are embarking [upon] as a people, as a country to build,” Caesar said.

“If you utilise varieties that are not productive, you will not get the kind of return on your investment that you should obtain and definitely, it will have a negative impact on our work to continue the transformation of the rural economy, national development; it will have an impact on the export figure, on the important figures.”

He said that plant breeding is the process by which the characteristics of a plant are changed over time to make them more prolific.

This includes making them more disease-resistant or tolerant, making the food from these plants more nourishing, or making the plant more productive.

Caesar said only two Caribbean countries — Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago — are members of the international convention governing plant breeders’ rights.

And with the law now in place, SVG will seek to become the third, he said. 

The law says that registrar must grant a plant breeder’s right for every eligible application.

Under the law, a person must obtain the authorisation of a grantee with respect to propagating material of the protected variety, to produce or reproduce, condition the material for the purpose of propagation, offer the material for sale, to sell the material, import or export the material, or stock the material for any of the previous purposes.

“So this basically speaks to the potential of plant breeders to operationalise an industry as a result of the work and the intellectual properly that they would have been able to secure,” Caesar said.

Regarding infringement of plant breeders’ rights, the following acts are exempt: an act done privately for non-commercial purposes, an act done for experimental purposes, or an act done for the purpose of breeding other plant varieties. 

The law also speaks to the privilege of farmers to grow the plant on their own land without infringing on the rights of the plant breeder.

The law allows for compulsory licences where a person may apply to the court for the grant of a compulsory licence to exploit a protected variety in SVG.

Subject to terms that the court thinks fit, the court may make an order for the grant of compulsory licences if it is satisfied that the grant of the compulsory licences is in the public interest.

Offences under the law include falsification of register and falsely representing a plant variety as a protected variety.

The law also orders the registrar to publish applications for plant breeders’ rights, proposed and approved denominations, withdrawals of application for plant breeders’ rights, the rejection of applications for plant breeders’ rights, any grant of a breeders’ right, any change in the breeder or the agent in respect of a plant variety, lapses of  plant breeders’ rights, any invalidation or revocation of a plant breeder’s rights, the licences in relation to plant breeders’ rights, where applicable.

Patel Matthews
Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews. (iWN file photo)

Meanwhile, Matthews noted that plant breeders’ rights are a form of intellectual property rights by which plant breeders can protect their new varieties in the same way that an inventor protects his invention with a patent.

He said that SVG is a country that prides itself as having agriculture as one of its exports.

“It is of interest to me that in the year 2019 — we are just going into 2020 — we are now embarking on what we consider plant breeders protection.”

The North Leeward MP said he mulled over what triggered the law at this time.

Matthews said the bill had come to Parliament one year and a day after lawmakers passed the law for the legalisation of marijuana cultivation for medicinal purposes. 

“And I believe that this bill is coming to this House because of what we did a year ago. Because it is the only commodity right now in St. Vincent that lends itself to the sort of protection that this bill  — while there are others — but it lends itself most to the sort of protection that this bill intends to promote.”

Matthews said that the bill speaks to denomination, where the new plant species is given a code by which it can be known.

“And that is your invention. It belongs to you,” he said, noting the conditions under which another party can use the protected material.

“If a person has to do all of that, then you must have the permission or the authorisation of the owner of that commodity. Let us come home to reality. I talk about this as it relates to the medical cannabis industry and the poor Vincentian farmers.”

Matthews noted that some of the investors in the medical marijuana industry in SG are Canadians.

“At the moment in Canada, there are plant breeders protection rights given to investor in marijuana and persons who produce different varieties in marijuana.”

He said that in SVG, while people talk about the different “high grade marijuana that we grow here, whether cannabis sativa or cannabis indica, whatever we grow, we do not have any protection in St. Vincent for our marijuana”.

Matthews, however, said that according to the bill, anyone could apply for plant breeder’s protection in SVG, whether they are citizens, resident or non-national.

“We know the condition of our local farmers, who we expect to be making a meaningful contribution to the industry that we are taking about, are we going to ensure, with the state of the art facility that we have that our local farmers will be in some way or the other given some protection under this act? I didn’t see it spelled out but I hope that somewhere in it that we can make provision tot hat effect.”

Matthews said that the plant breeders protection is a not a new science but has been around for a long time and there are people with the resource and technology not available in SVG.

“And they are at a n advantage when it comes to these kinds of things. We might be boasting about 50 years in ganja cultivation. But, basically, it is like the same thing in our fishing industry. We’re still doing things in the same way that people way back were doing it…”

6 replies on “MP concerned about local ganja as SVG gets plant breeders’ law”

  1. Watch yough nah dread! Me feel say dat dere is something dat dis man yah Sabato Caesar nar tell we! But we go soon find out!

  2. The difficulty with plant cultivation is that when planted in the open plants get cross pollinated by bees and other insects which means that mother nature herself can transfer what they describe as intellectual property from on variety to another, from one farm to another.

    I hope this is not another rape of the farmers like Monsanto have done in Africa and India where growers can only buy seed from a supplier and not use seed from their previous crop.

    The Monsanto Company was an American agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation founded in 1901. In 2018, it was acquired by Bayer as part of its crop science division. It was headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. Monsanto developed Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide, in the 1970s, and became a major producer of genetically engineered crops.

    Monsanto was one of four groups to introduce genes into plants in 1983, and was among the first to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops in 1987. It was one of the top 10 US chemical companies until it divested most of its chemical businesses between 1997 and 2002, through a process of mergers and spin-offs that focused the company on biotechnology. Monsanto was one of the first companies to apply the biotechnology industry business model to agriculture, using techniques developed by biotech drug companies. In this business model, companies recoup R&D expenses by exploiting biological patents.

    The problem is the ULP simply cannot be trusted to do anything for the benefit of the people owing to being under the control of Cuba.

  3. Could someone please explain in plain English, how does this affect ordinary people? SVG politicians should be rap artists. They got the word-smith part nailed down to a Tee.

  4. The heading here is “MP concerned about local ganja as SVG gets plant breeders’ law” and so that MP should, because whenever this government says something you can bet your bottom dollar there is always a hidden agenda that would only be revealed later.

    This leftish unsavoury bunch of politicians that have hugged the seats of power in SVG now going on nineteen years have shown us nothing but their selfish desire for holding on to power through lies, half-truths, spin, delayed action politics, and political manipulations.

    So, when you read that they have “passed legislation to protect the intellectual property of breeders of new plant varieties in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG)” and tell you that there is nothing to worry about, you know for sure that something is up. Something is up their proverbial sleeves for sure and they are not telling.

    As to be expected with them, the sting is in the tail! Read what one producer Canopy, in Canada had to say [ “Trying to understand what strains we should grow, in what formats and what quantities – we did a great job but we didn’t nail everything,” says Canopy president Rade Kovacevic. ]

    Therefore, when one read that “Caesar told lawmakers that the law protects the intellectual property of persons who are engaged in plant breeding” you know what’s coming next! The foreign producers are coming, and they are coming here with their new strains of weed and they will be looking for legal protection dread, an no Vincy carr grow dat ting here upon pains of “pay-up fe it dread or go lack-up fe it!

    Again, do we really believe the following from Caesar? “This doesn’t affect the farmers who are going to reproduce some of these varieties on their own land,” “the law also brings into focus marrying with the best science, the nation’s quest to develop the agricultural sector”.

    This plan, of bringing in the foreign producers at the expense of Rasta, upon whose back these guys have rode to create the Narco-state, are being unfolded before our very eyes. But we are being told move along dread, nothing to see here!

    The view of the weed from another country. “Read Grace’s story, then tell me you still think marijuana isn’t destroying our country” so ask the English man!

    Another English man tell us about Gulag History and the truth about JEREMY CORBYN in the UK. These details give us an insight into RALPH GONSALVES and his leeching family and the Liberal Left here who leeches off us while telling us “Labour Loves Us” only for them to give us staggering unemployment and a nation overran by diseased Rats. Their deluded utopian ideology is explained here by Peter Whittle.

    The living example of their utopian dream is seen here in South America. “Venezuela’s currency: Worth more as craft paper than as money. Crafts made from devalued money underscore the creative ways Venezuelans extract value from their decimated currency”.

    We have been fooled for long enough by the Gunsalves and their entourage. But for the restraint of the Caribbean Central Bank and the results of this family’s persistent begging across the world, our SVG dollar would go the same was as Venezuela’s, make no mistake about that and no amount of legal Weed would help us none.

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