b'Blockchain for BiodiversityTHE BENEFITS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND FOR FARMERS.BY: MRINALINI KOCHUPILLAIWHY IT MATTERS I t was a pleasure, and a surprise, for me toa variety, but rather belong to a plant grouping address a hall full of experts from the industry,within a single botanical taxon with a high level of This article providesgovernment and non-governmental organiza- genetic and phenotypic diversity between individ-a summary of mytions at the EuroSeeds Congress in October lastual reproductive units, should be available for use talk at the 2019year. A pleasure, because it is rare for me as anin organic production. (Recital 37). Accordingly, EuroSeeds Annualethics, law and intellectual property academicfor the first time, the regulation permits and Congress, titledspecializing in sustainable agriculture, to meet soactively encourages not just the use, but also the Diversifyingmany experts who have deep knowledge and gen- sale, for organic agriculture, of non-uniform seeds Directions ofuine interest in agriculture. A surprise, because asand planting materials that do not fulfill the defini-Knowledge andan academic and entrepreneur also looking at howtion of variety (termed in the regulation as plant Value Flows: Ablockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can helpreproductive material of organic heterogenous Blockchain Use caseresolve issues that laws have failed to adequatelymaterial. Hereinafter, we refer to these materials in the Agro-Seedsaddress, it is rare to find agricultural experts eageras heterogenous materials). Sector. It describesto learn about these technologies, their promisesThe Regulation permits such sales to take how blockchainand limitations. place without the need to fulfill the arduous cer-can potentially beThe talk highlighted how blockchain technol- tification requirements under various EU laws used in the seedogy (in combination with other technologies like AI(EU 2018/848, Article 13). However, in order to sector to incentivizeand Machine Learning) may support sustainableensure quality, traceability and compliance with the sustainableand equitable agriculture which (economically)its requirements, the Regulation delegates "setting and equitablebenefits both small farmers and corporations, andout certain rules for the production and market-sale and use ofhelp overcome issues that intellectual propertying of. heterogenous material of particular genera agrobiodiversitylaw and biodiversity conservation regulations haveand species" to the European Commission (EU and heterogenoustogether not been able to optimally resolve. 848/2018, Recital 38). These Rules are yet to be material infinalized, but the provision is expected to come agriculture onTHE EU ORGANIC REGULATION into force in 2021.one hand, whileSeed Keeping, an art and practice still common also incentivizingin developing countries like India (see Box 1), isINCENTIVIZING THE DISSEMINATIONbenefit sharingrelatively less known, and in several instances,OF AGROBIODIVERSITYand equitableforgotten, in Europe. It involves careful selectionThus, although seeds like Sona Moti (see Box 1) downstreamand natural storage (or keeping) of the best seedsare highly relevant for breeders, legitimate access research with thisfrom a harvest resulting from sowing traditionalto these seeds with equitable benefit sharing with biodiversity.or indigenous (namely, non-uniform or heteroge- local farmers is unlikely to take place. While the nous) seeds. These stored seeds are then used fornew EU Organic Regulation and several existing the next seasons sowing and the cycle continues.international treaties (e.g. the Convention on For several decades now, EU member states, inBiological DiversityCBD, and the Seed Treaty) keeping with EU Directives, have either outlawedattempt to reverse such trends by adopting legis-or actively discouraged the sale in agriculture,lations permitting the easy marketing and regis-including for organic agriculture, of such non-uni- tration of locally adapted, heterogenous materials form, heterogenous seeds. Recently, however, thelike Sona Moti, more fundamental issues remain European Parliament adopted the new regulationunaddressed (and perhaps un-addressable by mere EU 2018/848 on Organic Production and Labellinglegislation). These issues include lack of trust (fear of Organic Products. This regulation, declares inof biopiracy), preventing farmers from sharing its recitals that Research in the Union on plantagrobio resources, and absence of means facilitat-reproductive material that does not fulfil the vari- ing their traceability to source after any instance ety definition as regards uniformity shows thatof sharing or sale. there could be benefits of using such diverse mate-rial, in particular with regard to organic produc- Dr. Mrinalini Kochupillai is a senior aca-tion, for example to reduce the spread of diseases,demic researcher and Founder-Director to improve resilience and to increase biodiversity.of Sustainable Innovations Research and (Recital 36).Education (SIRN). She is currently in the pro-The Regulation also clarifies that such plantcess of establishing a blockchain-based start-up reproductive materials, which do not belong toin the agri-seed sector. 26IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'