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Intellectual Property Is Driving Agricultural Innovation

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Javier Fernandez, Intellectual Property Watch, September 21, 2009.

Crop protection products already help farmers to increase their yields per hectare and innovation in this area promises to further increase their efficacy. However, plant science companies invest significant amounts in many years of research to develop these products and without intellectual property protection, the incentive to invest in such innovation is severely diminished. Protection of safety and efficacy data along with data confidentiality is a key tool to foster this innovation.

Javier Fernandez of CropLife Latin America explains the importance of protection of regulatory data and its relevance to the bid for food security. CropLife International will also be hosting a discussion on these issues in public-private development partnerships at the WTO Public Forum in Geneva later this month.

The plant science industry commits itself to performing necessary testing and submitting results to regulatory authorities for due product assessment. However, authorities must guarantee adequate custody and traceability of regulatory data to prevent its disclosure during the temporary exclusivity period and after expiration thereof. Mismanagement of regulatory data after submission may irreversibly damage the innovator’s interest in a product supported by the scientific data. For example, retro-analysis of elements contained in a regulatory dataset can help copycat manufactures obtain innovators’ precise formulations. Thus, disclosure of information containing product blueprints would severely hinder the value of innovation.

Recently, public desire to access government-held information has spiralled, placing pressure on data confidentiality. There could be a legitimate interest to review scientific data for non-commercial research, educational reasons, criticism, review or news reporting. However, access to information should not be interpreted as an uncontrolled, free exchange, disclosure capability. A careful balance must be struck between preserving data confidentiality and satisfying legitimate interests in understanding effects associated to plant science products.