Protecting intellectual property is essential to foster agricultural innovation, says Javier Fernandez of CropLife Latin America.
With a growing population set to exceed nine billion by 2050 and limited resources, food production will need to double in the next 40 years to ensure food security. Technological innovations in agriculture, including novel agrochemical technologies, could prove vital in the effort to sustainably grow enough food, feed and fibre, says Fernandez.
Such products are rigorously regulated and developing new ones requires substantial investment — demonstrating product safety and efficacy normally takes plant science companies more than nine years, at a cost of roughly US$200 million.
Protecting the regulatory data submitted to authorities to ensure product exclusivity for ten years is essential to avoid copycat products and make the initial investment worthwhile, argues Fernandez.
Recent public pressure to access government-held information is growing. There could be legitimate reasons to review scientific data for non-commercial research or review, says Fernandez, but access to information should not mean an uncontrolled free exchange.
Preserving data confidentiality and satisfying legitimate concerns in understanding the effects of agrochemical innovations must be carefully balanced, says Fernandez. This will ensure a sound intellectual property regime that not only benefits the owners of crop protection products or improved plant traits but also society as a whole.