By Javier Preciado Patiño, manager of RIA Consultores and co-founder of eFarmNewsAr

Buenos Aires, November 27th. The reform of the Plant Breeders Act is hanging by a hair. Last November 13th representatives from the Cambiemos’ coalition (the governmental party) reached a milestone when they were able to release a project to reform the old Plant Breeders Act that dates from 1973.

Since the return of the Democracy to Argentina, in 1983, never a project to reform that bill were able to pass the Agricultural Committee. In this occasion, representative Atilio Benedetti, chairman of the committee, was able to joint the sufficient votes from his allies in the official party to pass the bill.

It is a non-minor issue. The current act permits farmers to save the seed for the next season. But this “farmer’s privilege” is seriously questioned by breeders, arguing an “abuse” of this exemption to the Intellectual Property Rights. In fact, only 30% of the soybean area and 40% of the wheat area is planted with certified seed or with saved seed after having paid royalties to breeders.

When the old law was sanctioned, in 1973, there was another farming structure in Argentina. Currently, it is estimated that 60 or 70% of agriculture is running in rented fields by large farming companies that in many cases uses the “farmer’s privilege” to save seed. This was not the original spirit of the law.

Representative Benedetti, a poultry and pork businessman in its Entre Rios province, worked in the reform of the law, proposing that only small farmers were able to save seeds without paying royalties. All the rest will be able to save seed but paying royalties to breeders but only for the same volume originally bought. If the farmer wants to plant more hectares, he should buy certified seed.

Breeders argue that a strong IPR framework will make it possible new investments in the sector of autogamous crops genetic improvement like soybean, wheat or barley.

But the committee approval comes to close to the end of the legislative period. It was supposed that the bill was going to be voted in the session of November 20th. But disputes into the Cambiemos coalition, the arriving of the G20 leaders to Buenos Aires, and a strike of the flagship airline made that the Ordinary period of sessions concludes without the discussion of the law.

“There is a very strong lobby over President Macri’s advisors to including this project in the calling to Extraordinary Sessions”, explain a source from the breeding industry. When ordinary sessions period concludes, the President is able to call for extraordinary sessions but only over a pre-set agenda. “We hope that policymakers understand the impact of this reform”, sources added.

The key issue is that 2019 is an “electoral year” when a general election will be running and Cambiemos coalition will make all possible to continue at the command of the country. By this reason, it is expected that a weak legislative activity. If the House of Representatives approves the bill, only will remain the Senate approval. If not, the process returns to the start point.