Incentive to plant breeding clubs

The importance of breeders' royalties in self-organising crop improvement cannot be over-emphasised. This was the original intention of the legislators, but vertical resistance, and the need for institutional plant breeding defeated their objectives. Now that we have the prospect of horizontal resistance, and democratic plant breeding, these original objectives can be realised, and plant breeders' royalties become very important.

One example will suffice. The seed tubers of a registered cultivar of potato, sufficient to plant one hectare (2.4 acres) of crop, provide royalties of about thirty five United States dollars. There are eighteen million hectares of potato crops in the world.

One good cultivar, grown on only ten thousand hectares, would earn a club about $350,000 each year. Even a trickle of royalties could relieve a club of many financial difficulties.

The value of royalties as an incentive to plant breeding clubs will depend on the motives of the club in question. At one extreme, some clubs will be primarily interested in the environment, or in pure food, and will have little or no interest in royalties. They may, if they wish, put their new cultivars straight into the public domain. (But they should register them first to ensure that no one else can grab the copyright). At the opposite extreme, some clubs may exist solely for the money, and royalties will be of the utmost interest to them. Most clubs will have motives other than the making of money, but they will no doubt be delighted to receive royalties, if only as a public recognition of their success, and as an aid to further success.

As a rule, the amount of the royalty is inversely proportional to the ease of breeding. There are likely to be many patented cultivars, and few royalties, for cultivars of crops that are very easy to breed. At the other extreme, some major crops might consist of only a few cultivars. The royalties on such a major cultivar would be enormous, but very difficult to win.

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