The government is moving to revise the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Act, which prohibits the use and distribution of new varieties of plants and seeds without the original developer’s consent. The administration stresses the importance of preventing the production of brand-name agricultural products from moving overseas and hopes to enact the bill during the current Diet session. Meanwhile, some farmers are voicing concern that the revision may negatively affect production.
Many of the patents on new farm varieties belong to the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization or to local governments. In recent years, however, many varieties of brand-name fruits that were developed in Japan have been taken out of the country and cultivated overseas.
Under the current system, the developer of a new variety can monopolize the sales of seeds and products for 25 to 30 years. However, there is no restriction on people trying to take them out of the country. To address this, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been working on a revision to the law since last spring.
During a press conference on May 19, Agricultural Minister Taku Eto emphasized, “We cannot wait any longer to start protecting rights to these plants and seeds. We definitely want to deliberate this issue at this Diet session.”
Exporting brand-name farm products is part of the government’s growth strategy. It hopes that the revision, which enables protection of the related intellectual property rights, will encourage businesses to develop and to cultivate more brand-name farm products.
Some farmers are voicing concern, however, that if private companies obtain the rights over plants and seeds developed by public institutions, they might set higher prices for those new varieties.