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Govt urged to protect rights of plant breeders

May 23, 2012

LAHORE, May 22: Experts and rights’ activists in a three-hour long debate unanimously urged the government on Tuesday to protect rights of plant breeders under intellectual property rights and get the pending plant breeders bill passed by the parliament.

The discussion titled “Biodiversity under Threat: Traditional Knowledge and Plant Breeder Rights Bill” was initiated by the Centre for Culture and Development (C2D) in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan here at the committee room of the HRCP headquarters to mark the International Biodiversity Day on Tuesday.

Speaking on the occasion, C2D’s adviser Dr Nadeem Omar said the government should evolve an effective benefit-sharing method or mechanism to protect rights of the plant breeders.

“The situation of protection of growers’ rights became better after as many as 160,000 growers/plant breeders committed suicides while fighting for their rights there. Though the situation in Pakistan is not like India, the government should immediately start formulating a policy or mechanism that could protect the rights of plant breeders here in order to avoid any India-like situation,” he warned.

He said the government, civil society and rights activists should also go through the bill on plant breeders’ rights jointly and add certain clauses that could protect the breeders’ rights under a legal framework.

Muhammad Ismael, Intellectual Property Organization’s Lahore Region’s chief, said that denial of rights to plant breeders under the intellectual property rights was causing shifting of a majority of experts/intellectuals abroad from Pakistan.

Agri Forum Pakistans President Ibrahim Mughal said the plant breeders in Pakistan were being discouraged and `looted’ by those who didn’t want uplift of agriculture sector in the country. “In India the per bag price of DAP fertilizer is Rs470 while in Pakistan the same is being sold at Rs4,000,” he said, urging the government to get the hybrid technology transferred to Pakistan from the developed countries in the light of an agreement signed in 1985.

Ms Ageela Naz, an activist working for tenants’ rights, said though the tenants were important stakeholders of the entire move for protecting the plant breeders rights, their role, responsibilities and rights were not even mentioned in the labour and agriculture policies of the country. “I am surprised why this big segment of the society is being ignored and deprived of their rights. No one thinks about the wages they are getting for their input in the agriculture fields. And even no one bothers about their (most of the women) health hazards they are facing due to bad impact of pesticides being sprayed on crops,” she deplored.

Irfan Mufti from South Asia Partnership said actually the mismanagement and lack of governance on the part of the government were the major hurdles in the way of protecting rights of plant breeders. He said the plant breeders bill must be discussed at grass roots level before it was passed by the parliament.

Sajjad Bhutta, Intellectual Property Rights Organization’s director general, sought for a detailed discussion on the plant breeders’ bill in order to protect breeders’ rights fully under a legal framework. He admitted that though the country was facing a big challenge of good governance, the civil society and policy formulators should give their valuable input in protecting such rights under intellectual property rights.

He said his organization was presently conducting a research about the orange production in Sargodha by registering this under prevailing rules. He also sought for constituting a think tank that could prepare sufficient recommendations about various issues/problems being faced by the plant breeders.