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Understanding the Plant Protection Act

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Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:20 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Dirk Aaron

Bell County Extension Agent

Enforcement of the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) in small grains has gained a lot of attention the last couple of years.

The critical ending to fall planting of wheat and oats is upon us in Bell County. Seed source is always an issue if growers have not yet bought seed for planting.

Be aware that numerous individuals in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and other states have been prosecuted for not abiding by the PVPA, including sellers, seed conditioners and buyers. A clear understanding of the PVPA, Title V, and utility patents and their implications is essential for everyone involved in the purchasing, conditioning or selling of seed.

Some farmers have asked: What is the purpose of the Plant Variety Protection Act?

The primary purpose of the Plant Variety Protection Act was to encourage further development of new non-hybrid varieties in crops such as wheat, oats and other self-pollinating crops. Allowing plant breeders to determine who can sell seed of new varieties provides them with the ability to recoup the monies expended in the variety development process and to reinvest in future development. Prior to PVPA, little, if any financial incentive existed for breeders and seed companies to invest in developing non-hybrid crops. Additionally, the passage of the 1994 amended PVPA has allowed the U.S. to participate in the international plant breeder's rights' treaty. As a result, the proprietary rights on varieties are now respected in many countries worldwide.

There is a considerable amount of confusion about the PVPA and its implications on small grain producers. The publication in our office that was written in June 2004 by Dr. Galon Morgan, extension specialist, and Steve Brown with Texas Foundation Seed, provides a great explanation of the legal and practical aspects of the PVPA.

Plant Variety Protection Act was enacted in December 1970, and provides legal intellectual property rights protection, to developers of new varieties of plants that are sexually reproduced (by seed). The 1970 PVPA provides plant breeders with property rights over new variety releases. Farmers may save seed to plant their own holdings (land owned, rented or leased) or sell that amount of seed to a neighbor, if plans for that seed change. All seed sales must comply with state laws, including Title V.

In 1994, legislation was passed that amended the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970. The 1994 PVPA prohibits the sale of all farmer-saved seed without the permission of the variety owner. The length of protection under the PVPA act increased to 20 years for most crops, including wheat and oats. It applies to all varieties protected after April 4, 1995.

All varieties protected under the PVPA must be clearly marked on the seed tag or bulk label indicating the type of protection. The seller is responsible for informing the buyer if a variety is protected.

What can or can't be done with seed from a PVPA variety?

A farmer can save seed protected under both the 1970 and 1994 PVPA for planting his/her own holdings. Under the 1970 PVPA, a farmer can sell only the amount needed to plant his own holdings. However, under the 1994 PVPA, no seed can be sold, unless permission is granted by the variety owner.

The owner of the variety may bring civil action against persons infringing on his or her rights as stated in the 1970 and 1994 PVPA. The damages awarded by a court must at least compensate the variety developer for the infringement but can be up to triple damages, when willful infringement is found. Additionally, violation of any provisions of the Federal Seed Act, including Title V, is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000.

Keep is in mind as you sell your farmer caught seed to neighbors. This act has been enforced in recent years.

For a copy the PVPA publication, call (254) 933-5305.

Upcoming AgriLife events

Dec. 2-3: Bell & Williamson County Pecan Show at the Bell County Extension Office in Belton.

Dec. 11, 7 p.m.: Cowboy Christmas Ball with Michael Martin Murphey at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton.

Dec. 14, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Private Applicator Course at the Bell County Extension Office in Belton. Preregistration is required. The cost is $50. Call (254) 933-5305.

Jan. 11 to Feb. 24: Master Marketer Program at the Farm Bureau Center in Waco. Cost is $250. Call (254) 933-5305 to register.

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