(Photo: Gerardo Bartolome at the Infobae set)
Buenos Aires, October 2nd. “The farmer exemption (a.k.a. farmer’s privilege) to the intellectual property rights in seed commerce, that enable him to saved seed for one season to the next must be strongly discuss”, the chairman of Grupo Don Mario (GDM), Gerardo Bartolomé assured during an interview with Infobae. “Why some farmers, today in the XXI Century, should be excepted to pay for the seed?”, he asked himself.
In Argentina, the current Act Seed from 1973 considers that agriculturers who saved seed for his own farm from one year to the next don’t must to pay royalties to the breeder.
“Since 1973 to the present many things have changed. The farmer is not the same, for example. Today he is a larger and sophisticated farmer, not a basic and subsistence one; the breeding work incorporated biotechnology traits and new technologies. Thus we must considerer why certain farmers shouldn’t pay for the technology if they are large businessmen who take risks or who sell and buy assets”, the chairman of GDM added.
“When we can solve wich farmer would be excepted and wich farmer must pay for saved seed, we will have unlocked the path to a new Plant Breeders Act”, he opined.
“The three larger soybean producers countries are, in this order, the US, Brazil, and Argentina. But while in the US the seed industry invests five dollars per hectare to develop the germplasm; the Brazilian industry invests three dollars, but the Argentine industry invests only one dollar. This is not a neutral circumstance, because the genetic yield gaining in the US surpasses Brazil, and clearly Argentina”, Bartolome explained to the audience.
“We have a non-mandatory framework for farmers who want to save seed, called “extended royalty”. Currently, a farmer pays 7 dollars per hectare for saving seed. But if all the farmers pay this royalty and the seed industry reach the 2% annual genetic gain like in the US, farmers would produce 60 kilograms more of soybean per hectare, that implies a 15 dollars extra income per hectare. The cost/benefit relationship clearly justify this royalty”, he exemplified. “Its a win-win relationship between the farmers and the industry”.
Currently, the House of Representatives is discussing a new Plant Breeders Act or the amendment of 1973 one. Representatives are maintaining a fluid dialogue with stakeholders in the seed chain, including farmers and NGO’s. But they must treat the new project before November 20th, when time to commissions discussion is closed. If a new Act were passed, the next year, the Act should be treated by Senators, before complete the approval.
Grupo Don Mario is the largest soybean breeding company in Argentina. They expanded its operation to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and SouthAfrica. Since this year they commercialize its genetic in the US market.