Volume 8, Number 5, Septembre-Octobre 2001
|Page(s)||514 - 523|
|Section||Dossier : Aspects des filières semencières Nord/Sud|
|Published online||15 September 2001|
LA PROPRIETE INTELLECTUELLE La protection de la propriété intellectuelle sur le vivant : historique et débats actuels autour des variétés végétales
Intellectual property Protecting intellectual property rights on living species: history and current debates around plant varieties
Cirad-Amis, Programme Biotrop, avenue Agropolis TA 40/03, 34398
Montpellier Cedex 5, France
La reconnaissance d’un droit ou d’un privilège temporaire en faveur des inventeurs ou innovateurs, en contrepartie de la divulgation de leur savoir-faire au profit de tous, est un concept qui se perd dans la nuit des temps. On en retrouve les premières traces dès l’Antiquité, vers le viie-vie siècle avant J.-C., dans la colonie grecque de Sybaris (qui a laissé une trace dans l’Histoire pour son raffinement), au sud de l’Italie, dans un texte rapporté par l’historien Phylarque… en faveur des cuisiniers créateurs de nouvelles recettes de cuisine !
The concept of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is a very old one, dating at least as far back as the Ancient Greek times. Many examples can be identified as of the XVth century, and most of the European countries had developed IPR systems by the end of the XVIIIth century. These delt only with non-living material or processes, and so did the Convention de Paris that set up the international patent system in 1883. The struggle of plant breeders to obtain variety protection rights started around 1850. The first plant variety protection system was established in the US in 1930, but was limited to vegetatively propagated crops. At the international level, a sui generis system for protecting plant varieties was adopted in Paris in 1961, through the UPOV Convention. Then patents were delivered for other living organisms as bacteria in 1972, mice (1987), firstly in the States and thereafter in other countries. Patenting genes, human or non human, is a very fundamental debate with crucial ethical and sociological issues. Because a gene is of natural origin, not created by human cleverness, it should not be patentable as such, and any patented utility or industrial application of a gene should not imply any dependence on further new utilities or industrial applications of the same gene. This is the very ethically-correct position of the French Academy of Sciences, stated in June 2000. But the same reasoning should be applied to all other natural products such as proteins, molecules of pharmaceutical or industrial interest… and the genetic resources which contain these genes, proteins and molecules! This position is in full accordance with the UPOV system, but in complete opposition with the provisions of the Rio Conference on Biological Diversity, the International Undertaking on Genetic Resources of the FAO which is still under discussion, the Farmers’ Rights which are defended by NGOs in developing countries, etc.
The contradictions between, on the one hand, an intellectual property rights system for genes, natural molecules, genetic resources and traditional knowledge based on the ethical position of the French Academy of Sciences, and on the other hand, the property rights which are being set up in the frame of the Rio Conference and the International Undertaking of FAO, and their consequences, are discussed.
Key words: gene / natural products / genetic resources / plant varieties / intellectual property rights
© John Libbey Eurotext 2001
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