I don’t know enough about either vegetable breeding or intellectual property protection to venture a guess as to the significance to that industry of Syngenta’s new online effort to streamline the licensing of some of their varieties and associated enabling technologies, which they’re calling TraitAbility. I’m not even sure what success would look like, either for Syngenta or anybody else. Alexander Tokarz, Syngenta’s Head of Vegetables1 suggested at last week’s event accompanying the launch of the TraitAbility portal that he might well be happier if other companies were to follow suit with similar opening-up initiatives in the next couple of years than if he were to be inundated with e-licenses from day one. Full disclosure: I know that because I was there, at Syngenta’s invitation:
#AccessIP Success for Syngenta would be adoption of model not necessarily lots of licenses in first month.
— AgroBioDiverse (@AgroBioDiverse) January 17, 2013
No word yet from either those other companies, potential licensees, or indeed growers. But nevermind all that. I still think TraitAbility may turn out to be quite important, for two related reasons. First, because it’s a clear parallel to the International Treaty, at least in the sense that — in albeit a smaller, more halting way, and at the other end of the variety development pipeline — it is ostensibly trying to make access to genetic diversity and technologies simpler and more transparent. Which suggests the intriguing possibility that the ITPGRFA, if it didn’t actually force anyone’s hand, at least in some way paved the way, or helped create the space, for what Syngenta at any rate is heralding as something of an innovation. And second, because, whether or not there was in fact such a causal link with the ITPGRFA, the parallel which is indubitably there might suggest to Syngenta that some of that license money should maybe flow back into conservation. Innovation is needed all along that pipeline to make it sustainable, not just at the business end.
— Alexander Tokarz (@alexandertokarz) January 19, 2013
- Not just Head of Lettuce, he is the first to point out. [↩]