How French Plant Breeders Protect Themselves


For decades, France has had a seed royalty system for funding plant breeding innovation and creating value in the cereals sector which it continues to build on. As we work to create a value creation system of our own in Canada, Germination recently found itself in France and asked French officials the Who, What, Where, Why and How in regard to how they do things.

WHO: Sicasov is a cooperative of breeders who create plant varieties. The co-op’s main mission is to manage the intellectual property rights entrusted to it. Sicasov is mandated to:

  • Grant licences to collect royalties
  • Protect and defend rights holders
  • Ensure compliance with contracts and monitor licensee declarations
  • Provide legal monitoring and advice to its users
  • Raise awareness of research, varietal improvement, and intellectual property issues

WHAT: In France — just as in Canada — the creation of a cereal variety is a long and costly process. A return on investment is essential to ensure the sustainability of research. For this purpose, Sicasov protects breeders’ rights through license agreements, which generate a remuneration in the form of royalties. The system applies to both farmers who use certified seed and those who divert grain to use as seed (commonly referred to as farm-saved seed).

WHERE: Sicasov services are available to French and foreign breeders in all territories where their varieties are protected. Sicasov manages most protected plant varieties — field crops, horticultural, fruit, forest, vegetable and floral species.

The system is split into two royalty/revenue streams:

  • Certified seed royalty: A royalty of 80 Euros per tonne is applied to the purchase of certified seed.
  • Farm-saved seed royalty: Farmers who do not use certified seed pay a royalty of 90 cents per tonne of grain delivered to the elevator. To ensure farmers do not pay twice when they use certified seeds, 5 Euros per ton of seeds is sent back to them at the end of the day (this ensures there is no “double-dipping”).

WHY: The French seed levy system (as applies to certified seed) was created 50 years ago to ensure breeders received a return on their investments. The farm-saved seed levy is a newer creation (about 15 years old) implemented due to a decrease in certified seed use. As long as certified seed use in France remains relatively high (it currently sits at around 50% to 60%) the system works well and is viable. Cereal farmers understood from a very early stage their own interest in the system and its benefits, according to Sicasov director-general Eric Devron.

HOW: After verifying the licensee declarations, Sicasov invoices and collects the royalties due. They are then redistributed to the rights holders according to strict procedures. Sicasov provides users with a large amount of data necessary for the traceability and analysis of their activities.


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