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EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 7 LEGALITIES Within Breeders Trust the decision to begin legal action is made only if it is in the benefit of all members says Staring. Probability of winning is often not of the utmost impor- tance sometimes jurisdiction and chal- lenging interpretation of legislation is the goal. Twice a year Breeders Trust organises a membersstakeholders meeting where cases are evaluated. In the past few years Breeders Trust frequently became front page news when it won court cases against intellectual property infringers and of course we continue with that. Frankly up to now we have never lost a single court case. But I am most proud of work- ing to improve the legal system surrounding intellectual property in general says Staring. One recent example occurred in Belgium where Breeders Trust sued the Belgian government to hand over farm-saved seed administration records. In the interests of food safety all farmers in Belgium are asked to supply the government with infor- mation on how many acres of farm-saved seed they plant. Initially the Belgian government hid behind privacy laws and refused to supply those records to us. After a lengthy lawsuit the judge ruled in favour of the affiliated breeding companies. Breeders Trust has a legal right to receive this essential information in order to enforce PBR says Staring. Since then in some other European countries Breeders Trust has successfully received information based on the Freedom of Information Act in that jurisdiction. Breeders Trust is presently active in the grass seed sector in among other countries France Poland Portugal Hungary and Italy. Moreover Breeders Trust also focuses on major European ports to identify lots of uncertified grass seed arriving from overseas which are subsequently transported to various European member states where they are given a new identity. The grass seed industry has often been aware of illegal activities in certain markets and with certain products but in the past only a very few companies had the courage or the time to fight these illegal activities on their own says Jos van der Wielen man- aging director at Barenbrug Holland and chairman of the Breeders Trust grass seed technical council. However when the major grass seed com- panies got together and joined breeders trust in 2012 things improved dramatically he says. Now when illegal activities are found or sus- pected Breeders Trust immediately takes the lead in investigating and ultimately exposing and prosecuting the perpetrators. The market environment is now improv- ing and companies are no longer standing on the sidelines when illegal things happen. The companies that are caught selling illegal seed are named and shamed and people in the industry are taking notice. We already see signs of fewer instances of illegal seed being offered in the marketplace. Breeders Trust has made good progress in Italy over the last several years according to Staring. Together with the Belgium-based Anti-Infringement Bureau for Intellectual Property Rights on Plant Material an agree- ment was signed with Italian authorities to combat intellectual property infringements. We want to make sure that we remain on top of these illegal activities and therefore we continue to carefully monitor the global flow of grass seed. By doing so you see that illegal flows of seed are being interrupted and there is a tendency based on importexport figures that these activities are being slowed down or moved to other places says Staring. TRENDS Some countries are more developed than others with respect to plant breeders rights legislation implementation and enforcement. According to Staring this produces a variety of different trends with regard to global intel- lectual property infringement. Even within Europe there are large differences in enforcement. The good news is that slowly but surely things are moving in the right direction. For example in France potato growers last year finally reached an agreement with farmers unions on the collection of farm- saved seed royalties. On the other hand the French legislature doesnt aid seed breeders since penalties are too often insufficient to stop infringement by notorious offenders says Staring. What you often see is that in many countries authorities consider PBR enforce- ment as a stepchild. In some countries even judges dont understand the legislation and the importance of PBR. There still is a lot of work to do. Public and private cooperation is the key to achieve in a long-term strategy. Nevertheless Staring is optimistic that through intensive communication and occa- sionally litigation infringement damage will be minimized enough so breeders can focus fully on their job. We clearly see that just being present in the industry has a deterrent effect and pre- vents people from profiting off PBR infringe- ment. In the potato sector the number of court cases concerning intellectual property violations have actually decreased over the past few years. For us potato breeders it really is important that Breeders Trust supports us to enable ongoing development of modern varieties to the benefit of farmers and con- sumers says Jrg Renatus managing direc- tor for Europlant who serves as chairman of Breeders Trust. Breeders Trust defends the rights of those who respect the rules. According to Staring its encouraging to see that the current generation of farmers is also very much aware of the role they can play in protecting PBR. They form a vital link in the food chain. They also realize that without breed- ers farming is pointless. In a successful modern chain one is dependent on the other but one also helps strengthen the other. Short-term thinking does not fit in there. Of course there will always remain out- laws who only listen when they are treated harshly. Breeders Trust takes firm action against them in the interests of the whole sector says Staring. And because of Breeders Trust end users can be more confident that the seed they buy is the genuine product and not a fake alternative adds van der Wielen. Staring notes than in a perfect world PBR legislation would not be necessary everyone would understand that intellec- tual property must be respected and that infringement and illegal sales are unaccept- able. In the real world in addition to good communication with the agricultural sector sufficient enforcement will be required to protect PBR. Breeders Trust cannot do its job work- ing by itself adds Staring. Anyone with information on PBR infringement is asked to report it either anon- ymously or through Geert Staring general manager Breeders Trust