International Rice Research Institute Patents an Indonesian Rice Variety

Elpidio V. Peria
12 March 2017

from :

Edward Hammond of the Third World Network recently reported (TWN Information Service on Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity/TK and Intellectual Property, March 10, 2017) that the well-known International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Philippines is seeking patents on a valuable yield-boosting gene identified in a farmers’ variety (“landrace”) of rice from Indonesia held in the Institute’s international gene bank.

Patents are a form of intellectual property right, usually given to inventions that are new, possessed of an inventive step and are capable of being industrially applicable and while this development (of international gene banks seeking patents on the crops under their custody ) is not really that new, for a supposedly philanthropy money-supported international organization (Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation) like the IRRI to now seek to monetize the assets in its gene banks appears to be a pattern of behavior that will continue for the foreseeable future, the only question now is whether IRRI will follow certain international rules when they do these things.

One basic rule that the IRRI needs to clarify here is whether they have notified the Indonesian Government of their plan since the Third World Network report shows that the yield-boosting rice gene called SPIKE that the IRRI is now trying to patent is from an Indonesian farmers’ variety of rice named “Daringan”.

According to the Third World Network report, Daringan (IRGC-17446) is held by IRRI in trust for the world’s farmers and is part of the Multilateral System (MLS) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

While the said Multilateral System (MLS) prohibits the patenting of the seeds that are part of the system in the form that they are received, researchers may apply for patents on other characteristics that they may find in the seed that they have taken out from the MLS.

What bears watching here henceforth is the action of the Indonesian Government in this situation, if they get to know of this action by IRRI and they will then take steps to get more information from IRRI on its action and act accordingly.


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