Geert Staring of Breeders Trust:

“Prevention preferable to going to court”

Breeders Trust is an organisation uniting 9 seed potato companies from Holland, Germany, France and Denmark. The organisation’s task is to check breeders licences across the globe and to root out illegal practices. According to director Geert Staring, the organisation’s main purpose is prevention, not punishment.

“We prefer prevention over court cases,” he says. “We hope companies will avoid finding themselves in the limelight due to our interference.”

Developing a new variety takes time, effort and a lot of money. To protect ownership of a new variety a grower can obtain a patent called a breeders license. Condition is that the new breed is distinctive, stable and uniform. The breed is then catalogued and protected by EU legislation. To enforce this protection, Breeders Trust was founded in 2008 by nine competing companies, vowing to protect each other’s rights, and those of other companies.

“So far we haven’t lost a single case,” says Staring. “We hire the best lawyers, do research, study local law, anything we can to protect our members. Sometimes we go as far as obtaining DNA evidence in the field. But more often it’s an open-and-shut case.” Legislation though, tends to differ from country to country. “We do encounter conflicting laws in different countries. Procedures vary widely. But usually the law is on our side.”

Most countries abide by the rules, but places notorious for ‘copyright’ infringement are Poland and Egypt, where growers duplicate certain breeds over and over again. In other countries, like China, breeders’ rights are hardly in effect at all. “A lot of growers recoil from investing in those places. That will likely change when legislation changes.”

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