US seed import permits

Sat, 23 Feb 2013 19:20:30 PST
Tim Chapman's comments point to the fact that fear of commercialization has
motivated much of the current climate of restrictive legislation across the
globe. The main subject of such efforts is legal ownership and transfer of
ownership. Who can successfully navigate these waters to 'legitimately'
obtain plants and seeds across international lines is the central question.
If only corporate or academic interests can meet the demands of ownership
bureaucracy then the rest of us are de facto excluded from the process.

As Tim indicates, any significant commercialization of plants of interest
to hobbyists or botanic gardens is essentially non-existent. The actual
profits from a new "unimproved" Ixia, grown eventually by perhaps a few
hundred growers and sold by a few dozen nurseries, would be a small sum,
even collectively. In practice, what would be fair remuneration, agreed to
in advance? Five percent of profits for the first five years? Ten years?
Forever? If the latter, then all subsequent distributions by additional
nurseries would have to be factored in. Otherwise there would have to be a
free movement clause after a certain period. If the Ixia was first imported
from Spain, but known to be endemic to South Africa, how to deal with
parties in Spain?

This is only a rudimentary sketch of many possible complications in
implementing concepts that have been proclaimed but not addressed in
practical terms. It may be that it is not possible to do so. In the
meantime, no one can say what is the *legal liability* for any grower for
any particular plant imported since the ratification of CBD. Will a PBS
member be sued at some point because they do not possess legal
documentation for a recent introduction? It is worth reiterating that the
U.S. is a signatory but has not ratified this treaty.

It is laudable that efforts should be made to provide benefit to the
countries of origin of wild plants. How can minor players do this while
they import small amounts of seed and plants? At present there no apparatus
in most countries to entertain, let alone implement such actions. The game
of negotiated direct and proportional benefit sharing means that only big
players can play (and win).

It makes more sense I think to consider indirect benefit sharing, e.g.,
improved crops and technologies for countries in need and less restrictive
procedures for wild origin plants moving between countries. This has been
more or less the modus vivendi in the world of plants for centuries.
Exceptional instances, such as multi-million dollar plants like
Catharanthus, can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It is absurd to
shape policy in such a way that non-commercial and minor commercial
interests are held to function by the same mechanisms as the pharmaceutical
and biotech industries.


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