Saturday, June 04, 2011

Change needed at UPOV, says new study

A new study has recommended changes at the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) in Geneva, which is seen as having an enormous impact on global agricultural research. Separately, World Trade Organization members recently discussed the trade impact of private standards for food.
The new study by the Quaker United Nations Office on the role of UPOV in the context of food, biological diversity and intellectual property, offers a set of recommendations to address some issues such as insufficient participation of observers, lack of accessible information about the system and activities, and the lack of transparency. UPOV is housed in the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The Quaker study also advised that UPOV should take relevant recommendations of the WIPO Development Agenda and applying them to its own work. It also recommends reconsidering the dual role of the WIPO director general as secretary general of UPOV, as UPOV is not part of the United Nations.
The study is authored by Graham Dutfield, professor of international governance at Leeds University School of Law, United Kingdom.
UPOV is “the only international organisation with responsibility for plant variety protection, and as such influences the direction of global policy relating to agricultural research,” the study says.
The study offers a set of recommendations to address issues such as what is perceived as a lack of transparency and the restricted participation from non-members in the organisation, including stakeholders. Another concern is the lack of assessment of potential consequences on national policy objectives in key areas when countries become UPOV members. These consequences include economic development, food security and biological diversity.
UPOV members were meeting this week for regular sessions of its governing committees, according to the UPOV secretariat. The Administrative and Legal Committee was scheduled to meet on Thursday, followed on Friday by the Consultative Committee, and then the organisation will hold its biannual extraordinary session of its Council.

Private Standards Might Constitute Trade Barriers
The World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Committeemet from 30-31 March and agreed on five actions to shape discussions on private standards in food safety, and animal and plant health.
Private standards are decided by private bodies, independent of international or official government requirements. For example, when a chain of supermarkets decides to ban from sale a certain type of good, based on their own internal decision, or maybe under public pressure. This has been considered by some countries as a barrier to trade.
Some WTO members have voiced concerns about private standards. They have argued that private standards are not always based on science, that there is an increasing number of them, they are not harmonised, that they are costly for suppliers complying with them, and that they impose additional burden on small and medium-sized producers and exporters in developing countries.
To address this issue, the SPS Committee has agreed on five actions, including: the development of a working definition of private standards related to SPS; the suggestion that the WTO secretariat inform the SPS Committee of developments in other WTO councils and committees; and that member governments should raise awareness in their countries about the issues posed by private standards and the importance of international standards.

Related Articles:
Change Coming To Quiet UN Plant Variety Protection Agency?
Study Shows Climate Change Innovation Concentrated In Few Nations
UN Rapporteur On Food Offers Long-Term Answer To Food Crisis: Agroecology

More news from:
. UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants)
. Intellectual Property Watch


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