16 Jun 2009 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
- Madam Deputy Speaker, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second time.”
Overview of the Bill
- Madam Deputy Speaker, this Bill is to protect new plant varieties. The primary objective of the Bill is to provide greater incentive to encourage the development of new plant varieties, and to spur innovation amongst plant breeders in Singapore.
- The Bill introduces a new protection scheme in Singapore - a scheme that already exists, and is functioning well in many developed countries. The legislation is modelled after the 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, otherwise known as the “UPOV Convention”.
A protection scheme specific to needs of plant breeders
- Currently, plant breeders who wish to protect their new plant varieties in Singapore have to rely on the patent system. However, the patent system does not cater to the unique circumstances surrounding the breeding of a new plant variety.
- For example, to qualify for a patent, a person with the relevant skills must be able to reproduce the same invention by following the patent specifications. I am told that this criterion is difficult to satisfy in the case of plant breeding. Genetic re-assortment may occur during replication, such that even if the exact same plants are used for crossbreeding, the eventual outcome may not be exactly the same.
- With the proposed Plant Varieties Act, we will be able to join 54 other state members which have acceded to the UPOV Convention. Our local plant breeders will now have an alternative means to protect their innovation. This should provide them greater incentive to develop new varieties in Singapore, which will in turn spur innovation and development in Singapore’s horticultural industry. This is vital as our plant breeders need to move up the value chain to meet the growing challenge from lower-cost countries.
- Our horticultural industry is not insignificant. We have 149 horticultural farms in Singapore, of which 40 are orchid farms engaged in the breeding and production of new varieties. In 2003, Singapore’s orchids, ornamental and aquatic plants exports amounted to 45 million dollars. Our orchid industry has gained worldwide recognition. With the accession to the UPOV Convention, our orchid breeders will have a more effective means of seeking protection in Singapore.
- Let me now highlight the key aspects of the Bill.
Benefits to local breeders
- The new plant variety protection regime provides a form of IP protection specifically adapted for the process of plant breeding. In order to qualify for protection, a new plant variety must be shown on examination to be distinct, uniform and stable. It must also be commercially novel, and must be given an acceptable denomination, to distinguish the newvariety from existing varieties. All these are elaborated in Part Four (IV) of the Bill.
Balance between right holder and consumers
- The scope of protection of this new system is provided in Part Five (V) of the Bill. A grant of protection confers on the breeder the right to prevent others from carrying out unauthorised activities in respect of the propagating material and/or the harvested material of the protected variety. These activities include producing, selling, importing and exporting.
- As a start, new varieties of 15 plant species, which are of relevance and importance to our local plant breeders and growers, will be eligible for protection. These include 8 orchids, 4 aquatic plants, 1 ornamental and 2 vegetable varieties. More varieties can be added to this list as the demand for protection grows. From the date of grant, a protected variety will be protected for 25 years, subject to certain conditions, such as payment of an annual fee to keep the protection in force.
- Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to assure this House that we have, as with the other IP Bills, given careful consideration to the need to balance the rights of plant breeders and those of consumers. There may be some concerns that greater protection may mean higher prices for consumers. MND has given the assurance that the price increase, if any, is likely to be limited to new and protected plant varieties. This is because most of our vegetables are actually of the traditional variety, and will not fall within the scope of the Plant Variety Protection system. Moreover, even though Singapore imports more than 90% of its vegetables for consumption, our existing sources of vegetables are well diversified and not confined to any particular country or region.
- For consumers who are willing to pay more for new and exotic varieties, they will benefit from the new choices available. In fact, we have taken careful steps to ensure that the new rights do not negatively impact the ability of others to innovate. Section 31 seeks to provide this balance through exceptions to the plant breeder’s rights by allowing a registered plant variety to be used (i) privately and for non-commercial purposes, (ii) for experimental purposes or (iii) for the purpose of breeding other varieties. Farmers will also be allowed to save seeds from their harvests for re-planting.
- In conclusion, the protection sysetm this Bill introduces will be a welcome enhancement to Singapore’s IP regime. It will provide an additional means of protection for our local plant breeders, while maintaining a balance between the right owners and consumers to spur the growth of our horticultural industry.
- Madam Deputy Speaker, I beg to move.
Last updated on 27 Nov 2012