Nov 10, 2015
Alliance seeks to protect seed industry innovation

A new program has been established by the seed industry to promote the importance of innovation.

Members of the American seed industry have formed the Seed Innovation and Protection Alliance (SIPA), a program incorporated by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).

“The goal of SIPA is to create a unified and consistent voice for education and best practices around intellectual property protection and its value to our society,” said James Weatherly, SIPA executive director.

“The biggest point to be made is there is a lot coming down the pike – a lot of opportunities in regard to germplasm and breeding,” Weatherly said. “We want people to be aware of what are the various types of intellectual property – what it means when something is patented or something that’s publicly available. It provides tools to go forward to protect innovations and gives those involved the various options to protect those innovations as they go forward – and there are all kinds of options.”

Weatherly is seeing an increase in the number of vegetable seed companies that are ready to innovate to meet the “constant hurdles and opportunities” offered by the marketplace.

“Seed companies are investing more and more in new technology – green technologies and new types of germplasms to meet those hurdles,” he said. “That’s going to help growers benefit from the genetic gains and innovations that the seed companies and the industry are developing.

“The whole point of innovation is for growers to benefit from the technology to produce what they need to produce,” he said.

Weatherly said Denver, Colorado-based SIPA will strive to communicate the need for ongoing investments in seed research and improvement; and the critical importance of protecting new discoveries – so plant breeders and companies can continue to focus on developing seed improvements that benefit all.

“SIPA was created to provide a harmonious and united voice from the seed industry on the benefits of innovation, why we as an industry need to continue to invest and drive innovation as well as respect intellectual property protection,” Weatherly said. “SIPA also serves as a resource for questions or concerns around compliance with intellectual property rights.”

“Seed innovation is necessary to help address many of the economic, environmental and health challenges our global society faces,” said Ton Van der Velden, SIPA chairman, in a news release. “It is extremely important that the agricultural community is able to continue to reinvest in new and better seeds so that we can help meet those challenges. Just like new technologies and discoveries associated with other industries – from music to medicine to consumer electronics – that are often protected by intellectual property rights, it is essential that seed companies are supported by intellectual property rights so that they are able to continue their investments in R & D.”

Weatherly said innovations from the seed industry are helping to address many of the economic, environmental and health issues faced by the world.

“Seed improvements allow us to produce more food from the same land, which is essential to feed our growing population,” he said. “Seed improvements result in produce and grains that are healthier and more nutritious. In addition, seed improvements mean less food waste because new varieties create produce and grains that stay fresh longer and have more consistent quality.”

SIPA is an educational outlet working to inform the seed industry of the importance of intellectual property protection, Weatherly said.

“All parts of the research, production and distribution chain have a stake in continued investment in research that produces the new seed varieties that contribute to a healthy agricultural industry and abundant food supply,” Weatherly said.

He said members have expressed a need for education across the seed industry.

“We will be helping companies and stakeholders articulate the benefits of protecting seed innovations through the various forms of protection available and how to manage compliance issues,” he said.

Weatherly said a recent survey concluded that each intellectual property (IP) violation costs the industry between $300,000 to $500,000 – and sometimes more than $1 million – depending of the scale of the infraction and the specific seed technology.

On average, it costs $100 to $150 million to bring a new seed technology to market, Weatherly said.

He said SIPA welcomes membership from across the seed and agricultural industry, including but not limited to seed companies, growers, producers, authorized dealers, brokers, suppliers, service providers, universities, as well as state and federal agencies.

“SIPA’s membership is diverse in terms of organizational size and scope, and includes companies that develop and sell flower, vegetable, grass and row crop seeds,” Weatherly said.

Gary Pullano, Vegetable Growers News

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