by Pedro Moreira
June 29, 2020
Brazil’s agribusiness is the best in the world! And it is the most important sector of the Brazilian economy. Our Country is one of the main producers and exporters of agricultural crops and meat, in addition to standing out in the technological and regulatory fields.
In the first half of 2020, the Brazilian Association of Soybean Seed Producers (ABRASS) and the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil (CNA) provided information that agribusiness was responsible for about BRL 1.55 trillion or 21.4% of Brazil’s GDP, referring to 2019, the agricultural sector being the most relevant (68% or BRL 1.06 trillion). Ranked as Top 5 crops are soybean, maize, sugarcane, coffee and cotton. Agribusiness employs about a third of the Brazilian workforce. 43% of national exports come from agribusiness, placing our nation in the 4 th place among the world’s largest exporters of agricultural and livestock products, following only Europe, the USA and China.
Brazil is one of the leading countries in the world in agricultural technology. Our agriculture already uses, on a large scale, drones that control in real time and quickly the development of crops, the pests that affect them, the application of pesticides on them, among other actions, on medium and large plantations. The internet of things is also used, managing the rural property, its planting field and human resources, involved pesticides and machinery, interconnecting them with soil, air and water data, as well as, for example, weather forecasts. Digital and online equipment and machines and autonomous tractors are already present in numerous crops. Our nation is internationally recognized for researching and developing new and bred plant cultures, known as “new plant varieties”, which bring with them morphological improvements (structure, shape, external characteristics, etc.) and in their internal constitution (resistance to diseases, early maturation, viability in hostile environments, etc.), through classic genetic breeding and/or transgenics.
The Brazilian legal framework that regulates agribusiness comprises advanced, orderly and effective legislation, which is in line with international treaties and legal statutes of several developed foreign nations such as, for example, the European Union, USA, China and Japan. As examples, the Seed and Seedlings Law and Plant Variety Protection Law stand out, which regulate the comercial registration and protection of plant varieties, the accreditation of entities that exploit them, the registration of production fields, among other related aspects.
Protection and commercial registration of plant varieties
The protection and commercial registration of plant varieties in Brazil correspond to two different and separate issues, which do not depend on each other, refer to separate and distinct applications, purposes and prosecutions, and are regulated by separate laws and governmental authorities, which are within the scope of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA).
The protection of plant varieties or Breeders’ rights is related to the Intellectual Property rights of the plant variety, whereas commercial registration of the variety refers to its commercialization (including import, production, processing etc.). The Certificate of Protection of the plant variety grants its Holder the right to commercial reproduction within Brazilian territory, unauthorized third parties being prohibited during the term of protection to produce for comercial purposes, to offer for sale or commercialization, of propagating material of the
protected variety. The production, processing and commercialization of seeds and seedlings, within the national territory, are conditioned to prior comercial registration of their respective plant variety, in the competent authority.
The commercial registration of a plant variety in Brazil is regulated by the National Registry of Plant Varieties (RNC) of MAPA in accordance with Seeds and Seedlings Law no. 10,711/2003 and its Decree no. 5,153/ 2004. The protection of a plant variety in our Country is regulated by the National Service of Plant Variety Protection (SNPC) of MAPA in accordance with Plant Variety Protection Law no. 9,456/1997 and its Decree no. 2,366/1997.
Access to national biodiversity
On October 24, 2016, the SNPC implemented new rules for granting protection of plant varieties in Brazil, in order to comply with the provisions of Biodiversity Law no. 13,123/2015 and its Decree no. 8,772/2016. Briefly, these new rules require the Breeder to inform whether or not the plant variety is the result of access to samples of components of Brazilian genetic heritage or associated traditional knowledge, as carried out as of June 30, 2000.
Registration of agribusiness players and production fields
According to the Seeds and Seedlings Law and Normative Instruction no. 09/2005 of MAPA, individuals and legal entities, which carry out activities of production, processing, packaging, storage, analysis, trade, import and export of seeds and seedlings, are required to prior registration in the National Registry of Seeds and Seedlings (RENASEM).
In addition, in the process of certification of seeds and seedlings, they may be produced under the classifications of genetic seed, basic seed, certified seed of first generation (C1), certified seed of second generation (C2), basic plant, parental plant and certified seedling. The production of basic seed, certified seed of first generation (C1) and certified seed of second generation (C2) is subject to prior registration of the respective production fields in MAPA.
Relevant and recent case study
MAPA, while being also an inspection body, together with its decentralized state units and interstate task forces, carries out the activities of checking complaints, investigating, inspecting, seizing products, suspending commercialization, interdicting plantations and properties, among others. These measures are usually of a precautionary nature, beginning or during the course of administrative proceedings within MAPA. Once infringement or illegality is confirmed and the process is concluded, the penalties provided for by law are applied. Administrative proceedings under MAPA are subjected to secrecy and confidentiality, and are made public when they are concluded.
According to the Seeds and Seedlings Law, these penalties can be, for example, isolated or cumulatively, warning, seizure of seeds or seedlings, condemnation of seeds or seedlings, suspension or revocation of registration in RENASEM, and monetary fine, which can be equivalent to up to 250% of the commercial value of the inspected product, when it affects production, processing or commercialization. In addition, the Technical Representative,
Sampler or Certifier who fails to comply with the law may be punished by means of a warning, monetary fine, suspension or revocation of registration, and denunciation to the Regional Council of Engineering, Architecture and Agronomy (CREA), isolated or cumulatively.
The Plant Variety Protection Law, on the other hand, provides, as a sanction for those who sell, offer for sale, reproduce, import, export, pack or store for these purposes, or give in any way, propagation material of the protected variety, with correct denomination or another, without authorization from the Holder, the indemnity, seizure of this material and payment of a fine, characterizing crime of violation of Breeders’ rights.
The penalties and sanctions mentioned above do not prejudice other applicable penal provisions.
In June 2020, in its news, MAPA announced suspension of commercialization, as a precautionary measure, of the production of a large seed producer in the city of Campo Verde, state of Mato Grosso.
2,700 tons of soybean seeds produced for commercialization were seized, which were stored in 1-ton bags, all seeds belonging to the same plant variety, which is duly registered at RNC and protected at SNPC. The seed producer is also duly registered at RENASEM. So, what is the reason for the inspection actions and the initiation of the administrative procedure? The production field of the seized seeds would not be registered at MAPA!
Some may see agribusiness legislation as an obstacle or as bureaucratic and complex, but they are definitely not.
It is precisely these legal requirements that have helped to place Brazil currently on the world podium of main producers, exporters and Breeders of seeds, seedlings and harvest products!
The awareness of everyone working in agribusiness, on the importance of due compliance with legal requirements, is essential in combating seed piracy, guaranteeing the physiological and sanitary qualities of plant materials, protecting the environment and Brazilian biodiversity, traceability of seeds and plant varieties, and guaranteeing and strengthening legal certainty. This all generates trust, transparency and control, both for rural producers and governmental agencies, and provides technological, regulated and serious agribusiness in our country.