Plant Variety Protection Law critical to food security — NASC
Seed-fund

Nigeria stands to benefit from PVP-Wandieville

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

As the Buhari-led administration harps on diversifying the economy through agriculture, the National Agricultural Seed Council, NASC, has maintained that Plant Variety Protection Law remains critical to food security.

The Director-General, NASC, Dr Philip Ojo, stated this in opening remarks at a one-day media dialogue hosted by NASC in collaboration with Wandieville with the theme, ‘Why Nigeria Needs the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Law’, which had the Founder of Wandieville, Yewande Kazeem, moderating the dialogue, while speaking on the essence, importance and benefits of the dialogue on the PVP law in Nigeria, with other experts from the seed industry present.

Ojo explained the strategic importance of the PVP law for agricultural transformation, and the need for Nigerians to pay more attention to the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) law.

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He said: “The role of PVP in responding to changing world is to provide a legal framework and a system that encourage plant breeding, leading to the development of superior plant varieties with high yield potentials capable of withstanding conditions resulting from climate change, global population, and growth, etc.

“Nigeria is one of the few countries in Africa with no legal framework for the protection of plant breeders.”

According to the NASC boss, advantages that come under the PVP law are enormous which include increased investment in plant breeding and development of new plant varieties capable of increasing yield and productivity for our small-scale farmers; Increase in the number of breeders and breeding entities; increase in the availability of more improved crop varieties with better yielding potentials; generation of employment opportunities.

However, he made it clear that the PVP law as being speculated and opposed doe not have anything to do with the advancement of GMO, and it is in no way against farmers to use their farm-safe seeds, but provides better choices for the farmer.

He also stated that supporting the development of new plant varieties is an essential response to achieving food security and agricultural sustainability but will require a substantial investment in skills, labor, material resources, money, and time.

He also added that the PVP law affords plant breeders as an incentive for the development of new varieties to contribute to sustainable progress in agriculture, horticulture, and forestry.

Also speaking about the PVP law, the National Coordinator, National Agricultural Seeds Advocacy Group (NASAG), Celestine Okeke, pointed that the private sector is not willing to invest in the new plant varieties due to the lack of the PVP Law, “We need to look at how we can secure the investment of those who are investing.”

Okeke also added that the way authors have copyrights, plant breeders also need the PVP law to secure investors who are brave enough to invest.

In another assertion, the President of Nigeria Plant Breeders Association (NPBA), Prof. Chiedozie Egesi, said Nigeria is currently experiencing a food deficit.

“When we check our food system and one of the key reasons is the kind of varieties that we grow. The PVP is to work with the seed law that enables the National Agricultural Seeds Council to implement the seed law which helps us to regulate the kind of seed Nigeria is growing.

He also emphasized that it will have a longer-term effect on how the farmers can benefit by growing the right kind of varieties. He mentioned the socio-economic benefit of the law.

“The law serves as a motivation for plant breeders to continue to develop improved varieties for our farmers. It promotes accessibility of diverse kinds of improved varieties for our farmers and improves the agricultural sector generally”, he said.

The President, Value seed Limited, Sir George Zangir, expressed joy over the progress of the PVP law and the fact the NASC is advocating for it.

While, the Business Development Manager, East-West Seed International, Hadiza Yaro, said that one of the reasons agriculture is bad in developing countries is because of the lack of improved seeds. While emphasizing the importance of the PVP law, she further encouraged NASC and other stakeholders to increase public and private investment in the sector.

However, she pointed that plant breeding is a long-term and expensive mission for both breeders and companies.

“This is why we need the PVP Law to encourage breeders and companies to invest. It will also allow Nigeria to compete in the international market”, she stated.

The Chief Executive Officer, Tecniseeds Limited, Stella Thomas, who was represented by Head of Research and Development, Tecniseeds Limited, Friday Alabi, explained that developing improved seeds take time and a lot of research work and it will be unfair that a breeder’s hard work can be easily copied without the PVP law.

He said that signing in the PVP will help to eradicate the fear of investment by private companies and encourage breeders in their research. He added that the law will change the scenario and landscape of plant breeding, the seed sector, and Nigeria as a whole.

The Chief Executive Officer, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, Ayodeji Balogun, explained why it is important in agriculture to hold rights over our research work, developments and innovations.

Balogun also asserted that the Plant Variety Protection Law is not a GMO law and it should not be mixed up, as they are two separate bodies.

Meanwhile, the Technical Adviser to the Director-General, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Folarin Okelola, cited Ghana where the PVP bill was signed into law after 22 years, said one of the delays was that they were misinformed by people against the bill for a long time and they suffered for it.

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Okelola also stated that the PVP is put in simple terms, ‘a value addition’, while he noted that, “Our improved varieties are used in several other countries and yet is bringing in no revenue due to the lack of the PVP law and our own farmers are not benefiting from it either.

“The PVP will give the intellectuals in Nigeria fit and viable space to improve varieties.”

Senior Agricultural Officer in the office of the Director-General, NASC, Charles Onwuka, said, “We should not lose sight of the benefit of the PVP law. Some seeds currently do not satisfy the criteria for PVP rights.

“With the PVP law, the varieties that satisfy the criteria are certified, and as regards the farmers right, it is left to the farmer to choose the variety he/she would rather use knowing the yield of the different seed varieties available and which is guaranteed.

Also maintaining that the PVP is far from GMO as being asserted by some persons, Prof Chiedozie Egesi, said, “The PVP law is not about the GMOs this is not the biosafety law.”

He re-emphasized that the Seed Act needs to work together with the PVP law and it is important that the law is put in place.

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