We understand that individuals and companies have a right to patent what are clearly novel agriculture innovations, said Hawtin. But when food crops are involved, particularly crops that have been used for years, governments have a duty to ensure that they have been presented with a clearly distinct and novel discovery and that the plant material used in the research and development was lawfully obtained. Agricultural researchers have a responsibility to make sure that publications are easily available to patent examiners.
CIAT officials said that, while they were concerned about the immediate economic impact of the Enola patent, more broadly, they worried that the patent would establish a precedent threatening public access to plant germplasmthe genetic material that comprises the inherited qualities of an organismheld in trust by CIAT and research centers worldwide.
The CIAT genebank is one of 11 maintained worldwide by the CGIAR, where crop materials such as seeds, stems and tubers are held in trust with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The genebanks house a total of about 600,000 plant varieties in publicly accessible collections, which are viewed as the pillar of global efforts to conserve agriculture biodiversity and maintain global food security. Plant breeders in both the public and private sectors are constantly seeking access to these resources to help them breed new types of crop varieties, particularly when existing varieties are threatened by pests or disease.
Hopefully, this case can help guide future reviews of patent applications and future preventive actions on the part of the CGIAR Centers, so that farmers who have bee
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