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The Plant Variety Protection Act

What is the PVP, and how does it affect growers?

In 1970, the U.S. government passed a law called the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVP), and the agricultural industry is still seeing its effects today. Essentially an aspect of intellectual property law, the Act gives developers of new varieties of seed the rights to produce and sell that seed exclusively for 18 years. However, the effects of the law not only benefit seed producers, but the industry as a whole.

About the Act

Specifically, the law applies to all crops that are reproduced from seeds. Fungi, bacteria and first-generation hybrids do not reproduced sexually, and therefore, they are not covered.

Owners of a protected variety must first give permission before any of the following take place:

  1. Seed sales or the exchange of the seed commercially
  2. Reproduction of the variety to be sold
  3. Use of the variety in producing (as distinguished from the development of) a different variety
  4. Distribution of the variety without notice that it is a protected variety
  5. Import into or export from the United States
  6. Instigation of any of the previous acts

The Act is enforced by the United States Plant Variety Protection Office. A protected seed is identified by its PVP Registration Number. In addition, bags of protected seed contain the PVP logo.

It is important to note that farmers can save and sell protected varieties as long as the sale is done without the intervention of a third party acting as an agent or broker to bring the buyer and seller together. A third party can include farm supply stores, cotton gins, and elevators.

Asset to agriculture

The benefits of the Act have been widespread. The development and breeding of new varieties of seed can be expensive. Before the act, companies were not willing to take the risk of investing into new types of seeds; they would fund the costly research and development of new varieties, only to see those types reproduced and sold by competitors a short time later.

Under PVP, their investments into research and development of new varieties are protected, encouraging competition to create the best products on the market. As a result, industry efforts to develop new and improved varieties of seed have increased dramatically since the Act was passed. The results have been increases in technology and genetic improvements in plant varieties, leading to larger yields and more dependable harvests for growers. In addition, growers have access to an abundance of different types of seeds to meet their specific field and harvest requirements.

Improvements in seed varieties have also benefited the public; areas such as yield, disease resistance, and drought resistance, along with a general improved quality of product, have helped increase availability of food supply in the face of increasing world demand.

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