Competitive industries

GRAINGROWERS need access to new grain varieties to ensure the continued development of the grains sector. The Plant Breeder's Right (PBR) program is an important part of ensuring new grain varieties continue to be developed.

The PBR program encourages pl ant innovation in a number of ways. Forexample, it allows the owner of a registered new variety to gain reward for their innovative effort, through limited commercial rights regarding propagating material. It also makes it easier for breeders to access overseas intellectual property to use in new plant varieties, by giving confidence that it will be protected.

PBR encourages Australi an plant breeders to develop useful new varieties to meet a wide range of domestic and overseas food and industrial needs. PBR also stimul ates a steady flow of new varieties from overseas, bringing investment and technology (approximately 60 per cent of all applications for registration are from overseas).

The 305 new grain varieties that have been registered under PBR since the introduction of the PBR intellectual property scheme in 1987 attest to the continuing demand for innovati ve varieties suited to the wide range of Australian growing conditions. Over 20 new varieties of major export crops are added annually and made available to growers.

However, there are some danger signs.

For example, the development of new grain varieties is lagging behind that of other sectors. If allowed to continue, over the longer term thi s will work against the competitiveness of grain producers.

Grain breeders need a way to gain reward for their innovation. As public funding declines and private companies enter the market, industry focus is now shifting to end-point royalties as breeders try to gain an equi table reward for their efforts.

As long as breeders have the opportunity to gain reward for their innovative effort, the development of new varieties that grain producers depend upon is assured. Plant breeding is a high valueadded, knowledge-intensive activity promoting Austra li an competitiveness, employment and economic returns.

Industry agreement to guidelines regarding a system of end-point royalties would help to maintain investment in developing new grain varieties that form the basis of competitive industries.

Check out the PBR website from mi dFebruary for the latest on 'di ffi cult' pl ant breeding issues (www.affa.gov.au/pbr).