Chile’s Senate approval for the UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) 1991 Convention has sparked controversy in the South American country, but advocates say it will not affect local producers.
Chile’s 13 senators who voted in favor of the UPOV 91 convention say it’s the way forward to protect copyright, but critics say the move will prevent local farmers from saving their seeds.
With six absentions and five votes against, the act still needs to be ratified by President Sebastian Piñera before it will come into effect.
UPOV’s aim is to promote an effective system of plant variety protection, to encourage the development of new plants for the benefit of society, with three amendments taking place in 1972, 1978 and 1991. According to the Chilean Senate’s website, the project was approved by the Committees of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs.
During heated discussions before votes were cast, Agriculture Committee chairman José García Ruminot said UPOV was “only one of a series of international instruments aimed at protecting copyright and wouldn”t affect domestic producers”.
Ruminot added if Chile did not sign the convention it could be sanctioned by international bodies, while free trade agreements (FTAs) could also come under scrutiny.
Senator Carlos Larrain agreed the move would not affect local producers, emphasizing that “native species will not disappear”, while Carlos Krusche said UPOV 91 would help Chilean laboratories gain accredition.
“In addition, our agriculture requires the latest seeds (for Chile) to be an agricultural power in the world,” Krusche said.
While the majority of senators were in favor of UPOV 91, senators Alejandro Navarro and Ximena Rincón were staunch critics.
Rincón said there was fear the costs implied by the convention could affect local industry, while Navarro critized the country’s FTAs with the United States, the European Union and Japan that obliged the convention to be ratified.
He added that other South American countries like Brazil and Argentina had only adhered to the UPOV 1978 Convention.
The two senators, along with Jaime Quintana, said they wouuld study a petition before the Constitutional Court to prevent the law’s enactment.
Navarro said the agreement would ‘prevent farmers from retaining seeds’, while Quintana added it would allow the sale of hybrid and transgenic seeds through large multinationals.