Questions and answers

Brazil currently occupies the first places among the world's top agricultural producers. However, the production of seeds basically targets major crops such as soybeans, maize, wheat, rice, and cotton.

In addition to such crops, Brazil is also a leader in tropical forage seed production and exportsHowever, the country imports seeds for vegetable and flower production

Crop Seed production Planted area Grains Seed demand Use Rate (%)
  Harvests Harvests Harvest 13/14 Harvest      
  11/12 (t) 12/13 (t) 12/13 (ha) 13/14 (ha) Potential (t) Effective (t)  
Soybeans 1448741 2293454 27715200 30110200 1806612 1156232 64
Maize 323495 414931 15686200 15475700 314914 283423 90
Wheat 226601 339322 1895400 2627600 367864 250148 68
Irrigated Rice 104100 123594 1216700 1293600 116424 48898 42
Dryland Rice 20061 25419 1173000 1102600 99234 51602 52
Cotton 8783 11169 886700 1119100 16787 9568 57

Source: Abrasem

According to the Brazilian "Cultivar Protection Law", Law no. 9,456/1997, a cultivar is any variety of superior plant species or genera, as well as its component lineage of hybrids, that is clearly distinguishable from other known cultivars by a minimum margin of descriptors; is homogeneous and stable enough with regard to such descriptors to identify it through successive generations; can be used by the agroforestry complex; and is described in a specialized publication that is available and accessible to the general public.

The requirements are stipulated by the Normative Instruction No. 9, June 02, 2005, of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply. Item 5 specifies documents to qualify for the National Registry of Seeds and Seedlings (Registro Nacional de Sementes e Mudas - RENASEM) and lists growers' obligations, while item 6.6 determines how to register seed production fields. 

How long does research take to breed/improve and launch a new product?

It takes years of research to conduct plant breeding for the purpose of launching of new cultivars. Stages range from basic research, with studies based on genetic resources, and production of events, elite events, hybridizations, selections, purifications, field analyses, tests such as the Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU) and Distinctness, Homogeneity and Stability (DHS) tests, up to the production of basic and certified seeds that are ultimately made available for trade. Depending on the methodology used, the process also includes health-related assessments and approval and consumption.

There is a term known as modern piracy, which relates to the disrespect to contracts and international conventions, and the copy, sale or distribution of material without the payment of copyrights, and trademark, intellectual property and industrial property rights. The case of seeds is not different. Most seeds that are sold are pirated. Farmers who buy pirate seeds thinking that they will take advantage of their low cost end up taking grains that are not seeds to their farmlands. The seed is identical to the commercial grain, however, the process of producing seeds for the purpose of sowing requires special care and complies with technical regulations, procedures and standards established by law. The quality of the seed involves many aspects, especially genetic quality, physical quality, physiological quality and sanitary quality.

Brazil needs to modernize its legislation to contribute to production and to the guidance of technical progress, and a larger amount of diversity and of operators in this sector (market for innovations in the seed and seedling market) is important for the country. In light of the technological advances that have occurred since the Law was approved, the organized private and public sectors have been discussing the need to change it.

The current legislation and the possible changes to the Law need to be assessed, before and after regulation and/or modificationsSuch assessments should focus on the restrictive and extensive interpretations of the Law for each individual critical point, e.g., use of seeds and seedlings, charge for royalties, extension of protection to the end product, sanctions and penalties, special cases (e.g. sugarcane and ornamental flowers and plants).

Such assessments should focus on the restrictive and extensive interpretations of the law for each individual critical point, e.g., use of seeds and seedlings, charge for royalties, extension of the protection to the end product, sanctions and penalties, special cases (for instance, sugarcane, and ornamental flowers and plants).

Embrapa's current position is centered on the following PREMISES, which must guide the current and future changes to the legislation towards a modern and enforceable Cultivar Protection Law, as well as corporate strategy:
1. Encompassing technical-scientific advances and the rational exploration of Brazilian biodiversity and of the particularitities of different species, such as perennial, annual, ornamental, assexually or sexually propagated ones;
2. Fostering innovation and increasing the number of species that can be protected by encouraging the development of breeding programs and/or genetic companies focused on non-commodities, and thus have new operators enter the plant genetics market in Brazil;
3. Contributing to food and nutritional security for the Brazilian population;;
4. Ensuring legal certainty, with:
- objective and transparent content, to provide an unequivocal interpretation and application of the law;
- improvements to the administrative procedures for protection requests;
- improvements to the legislation, the state apparatus and the feasibility of enforcing the law, which concerns inspection, the application of sanctions, and the criminalization of seed piract, so that growers can resort to the Cultivar Protection Law to safeguard their rights over protected cultivars, similarly to the stipulations of the Industrial Property Law;
- definition of limits for seed breeders' own use of seeds;
- protected cultivar breeders' choice of not charging royalties, in order to encourage the adoption of new cultivars in understructured production chains;
- with regard to the definition of heirloom varieties x protected cultivars and their use as source of variability in plant breeding programs.
5. Extended binding of the Cultivar Protection Law to UPOV-1991 (International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants).

The Law on Access to the Genetic Heritage, published on May 20, 2015 and in force since Nov 20, 2015, regulates the requirements for access to genetic heritage, and makes provisions on the protection and access to associated traditional knowledge, and on benefit-sharing for the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity. The regulation is going to generate impacts on the plant genetics and microorganism markets.

It is a proposal to encourage banks of traditional seeds and seedlings, which is being examined by the National Congress. Draft Law 6,176/2013 aims at stimulating the establishment of community seed banks and the cultivation of local, traditional or heirloom seedlings by family farmers, quilombolas (Maroons), indigenous peoples and other traditional communities.