Academic journal article Journal of Management Research

The Plant Variety Protection Law in Malaysia: Issues on Protection of Farmers' Rights

Academic journal article Journal of Management Research

The Plant Variety Protection Law in Malaysia: Issues on Protection of Farmers' Rights

Article excerpt

Abstract

The availability of a wide diversity of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture is necessary to ensure continuous food production and food security. However, the expansion of intellectual property protection into agricultural field has raised concerns as to its impact on farmers' traditional agricultural practises and the recognition of farming communities' efforts in development and conservation of plant varieties. This paper serves as an exploratory study on few issues relating to farmers in Malaysia, the Farmers' Rights concept and plant variety rights in Malaysia. The paper provides a brief review on the current Malaysian plant variety law and suggests further in depth study to identify gaps in the current legislation in realising the four core components of the Farmers' Rights concept.

Keywords: Farmers' Rights, Plant varieties rights, Intellectual property law, FAO Treaty, Farmers

1. Introduction

Farmers have been using plants and animal genetic resources for a long time for breeding purposes. Recent developments in modern biotechnology, particularly via genetic engineering methods; have significantly increased the use and value of these genetic resources in the breeding industry (Girsberger,1999). Plant genetic resources (henceforth referred as PGR) play a vital role towards the betterment of global nutrition and health. According to Nadine, Sperling and Ahsby as the main source of genetic material for development of food crops and medicinal plants, PGR value in the world's economy is incalculable (Saad, Sperling &Ashby, 2009). It is the most essential category of biological resources providing foundation for all food production and the key to feeding unprecedented number of people in times of climate and environmental change.

Farmers value plants not only for their obvious benefits to humans but most importantly, for their inherent genetic traits. To ensure food security, every nation depends on food crops domesticated either locally or elsewhere and the interdependence levels between countries for agricultural PGR are high (Fowler and Hodgkin, 2004). Various types of PGR are developed, enhanced and conserved by farmers globally, rich and poor, and these particular communities continue to be the stewards of PGR through their own methods of selection, refining, maintaining, sharing and trading these particular genetic resources throughout their farming activities (Swaminathan, 1998).

Plant genetic resource for food and agriculture (henceforth referred as PGRFA) is another term for food crop plants and is an important class of PGR which are essentially man-made. Girsberger stressed the high value attached to this particular group of PGR in plant breeding activities, as it assists in developing new and better varieties of crops (Girsberger, 1999). The diversity of genetic materials contained in PGRFA either from traditional farmers' grown varieties, modern breeds of crops or wild relatives of these PGRFA, constitute an important component of agro biodiversity (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 1998). Through knowledge and expertise passed on from one generation to another, farmers have contributed to the creation, conservation, exchange and knowledge of genetic and species diversity of PGRFA. Through their practises of seed selections for re-planting purposes, farmers have built up genetic diversity of crops with increased quality in terms of palatability and storage quality. Seeds are chosen based on specific characteristics deemed appropriate by farmers for their farming environment, with high economic value, displaying agronomic stability and tolerance to disease and pests. These seeds are acquired either from the harvest of their own fields or through sale or exchange with neighbouring farming communities (Mushita, 1992).

Alteiri maintained that farmers' efforts at maintaining genetic diversity of PGRFA, particularly of the major staple crops of subsistence farmers, have helped in food security by offering greater defences against vulnerability to diseases, pests and environmental changes as well as enhancing harvest security (Alteiri, 2009). …

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