It's now two years since four table grape breeding and licensing companies formed The Breeders Alliance Co Ltd and launched it at the 2019 London Produce Show.
The global table grape industry is dynamic, successful and forward looking. Growers today can choose from a large range of high-performance varieties with appealing customer attributes. The breeders in the Alliance invest over the long-term to create new and ever more diverse and attractive varieties to satisfy the demands of these growers and the consumers they serve.
The aim of the Alliance is to provide a forum for those breeder members to share information about Intellectual Property Rights infringements, and to develop best practices in dealing with instances of illegal propagation and production of their proprietary varieties. The Alliance also seeks to raise the collective awareness across the whole table grape supply chain so that exporters, importers and retailers are protected from the risks of selling illegally produced grapes because this illegal production not only damages the breeders and their bona fide licensed growers, but also damages the reputation of all the companies in the supply chain who unknowingly deal in these unlicensed grapes.
One of the key measures in enforcement activities is market surveillance. To this end, the Alliance’s members have contracted with 2 independent companies to carry out regular and wide ranging market surveillance during the 2021 season. Trained inspectors will visit all major retailers and distribution centres in the main countries on a weekly basis and any suspect fruit will be purchased and all the details regarding labelling and origin will be securely recorded. This commitment by the Alliance will result in a big increase in monitoring in an effort to identify illegally produced fruit so that action can be taken against unauthorised growers and nurseries to protect the rights of the breeders, their licensees and their retail customers.
Key to the success of the Alliance’s objectives is the ability to rapidly confirm the identity of consignments of suspected illegal fruit, which are commonly mis-labelled so as to hide the true identity of the proprietary variety. The members of the Alliance have signed an agreement with the highly renowned CREA* laboratory in Italy to establish a reference DNA database covering all their proprietary varieties, together with all the main public domain varieties commonly in production. CREA will perform rapid DNA testing of any suspect grape samples found by the inspectors in the market to establish the true identity of the variety.
When illegal production is confirmed, then the breeders concerned will take action against the infringers to defend their IP rights.
Said Duncan Macintyre, Chairman of The Breeders’ Alliance, “it is a sad fact that because the performance and consumer appeal of the new varieties is so much better than the old, traditional varieties, all breeders are now experiencing major problems with illegal production. This not only damages our breeder members, but also our bona fide licensed growers who find themselves placed at a disadvantage and this is what has compelled us to increase our surveillance and testing”