Nigeria: 'Plant Variety Protection Bill Will Improve Food Security'

File photo: Duom Deng Biar is part of a farmers group in Twic East in Jonglei, South Sudan, where a poor harvest has led to widespread hunger. “If I feel hungry, it is okay, but the children should not,” said Duom. “We are feeling hungry. What we have cultivated, we have finished,” she said. The family tried to get a second harvest, but the lack of rain meant that the seeds dried off. “I have a lot of challenges. One son is still in school, and I have to sell our chickens, so that I can pay the school fees,” she said.
10 May 2021

The Director-General, National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo, has stated that the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill will provide intellectual property protection to breeders and improve food security in Nigeria.

Ojo, disclosed this during a virtual meeting organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with the theme: 'Expert review of the Plant Variety Protection Bill: Significance and Constraints.'

He said the NASC and other stakeholders have helped facilitate the PVP bill which is currently awaiting Presidential assent.

Delivering his presentation titled: "Significance of the PVP Act to the Seeds Subsector and the Nigerian Food and Agriculture Ecosystem," Ojo said the bill is a legal designation to protect plant breeders and help encourage breeders to get incentives from their inventions.

In her opening remarks, NESG Board member, Dr. Ndidi Nwuneli, disclosed that the PVP bill has an important role to play as it would unlock a lot of potentials across Nigeria's Agricultural ecosystem while protecting farmers.

Nwuneli, who is also the Co-Founder/Managing Partner of Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited, posited that 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.

She said there was a need for all stakeholders to work collectively to transform Nigeria's food ecosystem.

During the panel session, Trade Expert, Trade Law Centre (TRALAC), Western Cape region of South Africa, Dr. Olumuyiwa Bamidele Alaba, posited that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) does not have specific laws around PVP.

He charged countries to interact and sign negotiating treaties among each other, "and that there are international laws that espouse Protection of breeders' right and that of locals and the investors."

Director of the Ecological Think-Tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, revealed that the productivity of small-scale farmers is always underestimated and more support should be given to them as opposed to transnational corporations.

He revealed that farmers have over the years successfully selected the best seeds and research has shown that the future of food production is reliant on small-scale farmers.

Bassey, argued that certain clauses of the PVP Bill were inimical to the growth of small-scale farmers and raises huge questions on Health and biosafety considering how unsafe Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are.

He added: "There is a huge gap of trust issues and the interest of the multinational seeds company has nothing to do with small-scale farmers and that the present situation presents an opportunity to address salient issues in Nigeria's Agricultural ecosystem before the bill is signed into law."

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