The Argentinean government recently filed before the Congressional Agriculture committee an official project to amend the Seed and Phytogenetic Plant Breeding Law (Law 20.247), which dates from 1973.

The Seeds Law of 1973 does not take into consideration the new productive realities, as well as technological advances in the fields of research, seed production and genetic improvement. With this project, the Argentinean Government attempts to balance the rights of producers and patent owners and figure out a way to stop the abuse of not only monopolistic practices but also the farmers´ privilege.

This project aims to integrate equitably the needs of all parties, giving certainty to the producer regarding the method of payment and price of the seeds, keeping exempt from payment for the exercise of own use to the vast majority of producers (small producers, family farms and native communities) promoting the development of germplasm, innovation and incorporation of technologies and providing effective tools for control, overseeing and transparency of the seed market.

One of the most important issues to be addressed is the payment of royalties to patent owners at the moment of the purchase of seeds, without any further claims, among other issues. All those farmers who have a turnover/profit of less than one million eight hundred Argentine's pesos (1,800,000 ARP is 119,514 USD rate date November 2, 2016) are exempt from paying royalties to the patent owner of the seed they used in their production.

Also, this proposal establishes that large producers would have to pay additional sums for three campaigns in terms of intellectual property if they maintain the same crop area. Should a fourth campaign takes place, they would be exempt from the payment if they have not expanded the number of cultivated hectares. Provided the producers increase their cultivation area, they should pay an extra amount.

As well, when a protected or unprotected plant variety containing some form on which any intellectual property right is infringed, the owner of said rights could not object to the use of that variety for the purposes of experimentation or obtaining a new phytogenetic plant breeding is used, this may be registered before Argentinean National Register of Ownership of Cultivars.

Another novelty introduced by the government in this reform project is the allowance of unrestricted use of seeds to native communities and all others who promote family farming as long as the acquired seeds are used on the basis of barter or  exchange or are sold within the traditional community.  The only condition to access to these exceptions is that they must be registered in the National Register of Family Agriculture (RENAF).

With all these new provisions, the Argentinean government hopes to help avoid claims of intellectual property issues from companies who generate genetic advances in seeds but without implying an economic suffocation for small producers.

In addition, the Agrarian Federation Argentina (FAA), an organization that gathers and defends the rights of small and medium agricultural producers, also presented their own proposal for the reform of Law 20.247.

In said project the FAA proposed not only the free use of seeds up to 1,500 soy or wheat tons (crops planted by the 80% of Argentinean producers), which would benefit most small and medium producers in the country, but also reduce the abusive and monopolistic behavior of some parties who intervene in the production chain and the strengthening of control´s agent. This project as well as the Argentinean government´s project establishes the principle of exhaustion of intellectual property rights with the purchase of seeds. This point is rejected by seed companies producers.

To date, there have been no developments on the discussion of both draft reform to Law 20.247 in the Chamber of Deputies, what is known is that any possible reform of the Seed Law will be of high impact on farmers and multinational companies interest.

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