Plant breeders welcome DEFRA’s stance on royalties

Two recent prosecutions by DEFRA have been welcomed by plant breeders as a toughing stance on seed royalty evasion, but the breeding sector still faces extensive evasion with winter beans and barley.

In the last two months, DEFRA has successfully prosecuted two cases, finding people guilty of marketing farm-saved seed.

Speaking at a pre-Cereals 2011 briefing BSPB chief executive Penny Maplestone welcomed the prosecutions as a sign that DEFRA is taking a tough stance. “I don’t recall any cases like this happening in my years at BSPB. It is gratifying seeing DEFRA take action and recognise the value of breeders’ intellectual property.

She said that the society has in the last two days received a letter from junior DEFRA minister Lord Henley stating that DEFRA and FERA would continue to investigate and prosecute any cases.

“Over the years, we have tackled evasion and now have a system that is largely working, collecting about £40m a year in royalties.”

A lot of the success has been through collaboration with other key parts of the industry, especially mobile processors. One example of success is the previously “zero rated” varieties.

But there are still problem areas, such as with winter beans and barley. For winter barley, it is estimated that as much as 50% is not being recovered.

“We don’t know why there is so much evasion with barley. For beans, a key reason is that most don’t go near a mobile seed processor and are drilled straight into the ground. Also, they are often sold later and growers forget to add them to their declaration.”

Another challenge breeding companies face is the hike in statutory fees for registration and certification of varieties.

“Following the Comprehensive Spending Review, FERA is pursuing full cost recovery. But it has now been calculated that it is costing £10.7m to deliver its statutory services for variety registration, but is only recovering £4.6m.”

She calculated that this would equate to an extra £150 a year for a breeding company. “For a smaller breeding company this is a large change.

“We are looking at ways of reducing the impact,” she said.

More Cereals 2011 tech information


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