The effects of the introduction of an expanded plant breeders’ exemption for non-agricultural sectors are uncertain. This is the conclusion of an investigation that was conducted by SEO Amsterdam Economics for the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The expanded plant breeders’ exemption entails that a breeder doesn’t need a license from a patent holder for the development and exploitation of a new plant breed for which patent protected biological material is used. For the assessment of whether this policy change should be implemented it is important if the expanded plant breeders’ exemption also has consequences for sectors that traditionally are independent of the agricultural sector. It concerns sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry, biobased economy and chemistry. These possible consequences were investigated through a literature study, interviews and a web survey amongst both non-agricultural businesses and the plant breeding industry.

It is possible, however, to conclude from the study that the effects of introducing an expanded plant breeders’ exemption for non-agricultural sectors are uncertain. Based on the study, no positive or negative effect on innovation for non-agricultural sectors can be established. The introduction of an expanded plant breeders’ exemption in patent law requires adaptation of the Biotechnology Directive. Reformulating this directive will create a lot of uncertainty for the non-agricultural sectors and could negatively influence innovation. Furthermore, it is unclear what exactly will be covered by an expanded plant breeders’ exemption. The question is, for example, whether it would also apply to algae, which are used in the biobased industry.

It may be attractive to some companies in non-agricultural sectors to add a breeding step when an expanded plant breeders’ exemption applies. However, they don’t expect to spend less money on license fees as a result of this. The interviews also show that adding a breeding step will not necessarily be cheaper than paying a license fee.

Plant breeders don’t expect to become more active in the field of plant breeding for final uses other than food, forage and ornamental plants when an expanded plant breeders’ exemption will be introduced.

You can find the report on the website of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands as an appendix to the Letter to Parliament regarding ‘Outcomes of the symposium on restoring the balance between patent rights and plant breeder’s rights’.