Plant Variety Protection bill guards farmers, seed breeders experts say

The Plant Variety Protection Bill awaiting presidential assent breaks new grounds in protecting farmers and seed breeders to ensure food security in Nigeria, experts say.

This was discussed during a webinar themed “Expert review of the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill: Significance and Constraints”, hosted by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Speaking at the webinar Ndidi Nwuneli, co-founder and managing partner of Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd said the role of the PVP bill is crucial to economic development as it will unlock a lot of the potential across Nigeria’s agricultural ecosystem while protecting farmers.

Nwuneli who doubles as NESG Board member said “without access to alternative sources of food or income, smallholder farmers are highly vulnerable to fluctuations in weather patterns, changes in government support, and shifts in both local and international markets.”

Similarly, Philip Ojo, director-general of the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), in his presentation noted that the PVP Bill provides intellectual property protection to breeders to help get the best genetics that aids food security.

He said that the NASC and other stakeholders have helped facilitate the PVP bill which is currently awaiting presidential assent and that the Bill is a legal designation to protect plant breeders and help encourage breeders to get incentives from their inventions.

“The PVP Bill will foster food security through proper seed genetics and will also help protect farmers as well as farming activities,” he said.

During the Panel session, Nnimmo Bassey, director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), said that the productivity of small-scale farmers is usually undervalued adding that research has shown that the future of food production is reliant on small-scale farmers, hence more support should be given to them which is what the Bill will achieve.

He however called for a necessary review of the Bill to ensure that the interest of small scale farmers are fully protected and that it addresses critical issues in Nigeria’s agricultural ecosystem.

Folarin Okelola, technical adviser to the DG, National Agricultural Seeds Council, said that the PVP bill will encourage and protect the results of plant breeding, ensuring adequate return on investments and help to stimulate inventions and innovation that will transform the agricultural sector.

He also noted that the provisions of the Bill gives a farmer right to choices but has little or nothing to do with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and neither does it relate with commercialisation or market regulation in the agricultural space.

Ijeoma Akaogu, programme officer, African Agricultural Technology Foundation Abuja, Nigeria, said there are more than 500 plant breeders in Nigeria; however, it takes more than 15 years to develop a new variety.

Hence, she urged the private sector to improve engagements with Nigeria’s agricultural sector in order to encourage breeders, noting that the PVP will encourage plant breeders and promote foreign trade and investment.

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