Plant variety registration is a technical process and involves various stages of complex scientific experimentation. The main test applicable for testing whether a new plant variety is eligible for protection under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001 is the DUS Test. DUS is an abbreviation for Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability. The plant variety must:
be distinct from other plant varieties present in the same gene pool in terms of characteristics;
their characteristics must then be uniform among multiple plants in the same variety; &
they must be capable of maintaining stability on being cultivated in a large scale.
The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority of India devices the body of rules and regulations for ensuring DUS. Unlike other forms of IP, where social, cultural and professional factors have considerable weightage in determining protect-ability, plant varieties are protected majorly by scientific standards. In order to strictly ensure these standards, the Authority has different body of guidelines for different plant groups. Currently, the Authority has issued guideline booklets for over 140 varying plant group, ranging from fruits, flowers to millets.
Each of the said booklets contain detailed description of the plant group, planting materials required, methods of conducting the test and the methods of observation. After conducting the test, each character shall be observed, grouped, characterized/symbolized and explained according to the values given in the guidelines. These observations will then be presented in a tabular form with accompanying pictures. The testing is done by a group of 6-7 members appointed by the Authority based on their scientific expertise in the field. There is a different DUS Centre for each plant variety. The DUS testing will be carried out in the respective nodal centers.
In case of a registration under Farmers’ variety category, a farmer or a group/community of farmers have to submit their applications for registration along with the endorsement by their respective Panchayats through the State Agricultural Universities or any Crop based Indian Council of Agricultural Research institutes or Krishi Vigyan Kendrain whose jurisdiction the Panchayat is located in. Crop specific breeder of State Agricultural Universities or Indian Council of Agricultural Research Institutions shall certify the seed material for its purity and uniformity by growing it for one season either at farmers’ field or at the institute. This is a mandatory procedure that has to be followed, without which, registration is not possible under the farmers’ variety category.
Farmers’ variety are traditionally those plant varieties which acquire one or two traits different from the known traits due to long periods of cultivation. This can be distinguished from the breeders’ variety as they are required to be more productive and have advanced agronomic features such as dwarf, early maturity, adaptive physiological traits, resistant traits to diseases and pests, responsive to fertigation and irrigation, etc.
Though the farmers’ variety crops cannot compete with the breeders’ variety, protection is awarded as it retains the traditional value present in the variety for which it is a local niche or is being cultivated for long periods as a tradition by the farmers in the region even though it is lower in productivity than their modern versions.
Farmers’ variety protection is availed for different set or rights as against the traditional breeders’ variety. Hence, the test for the former includes the consideration of certain social and historical factors as compared the purely scientific test employed for the later. Further, there are added benefits for farmers’ who seek protection under farmers’ variety category. Therefore, the tests may differ slightly upon the chosen category for protection, but both of them, commonly require the concerned plant variety to pass the DUS test.
DUS Guidelines, http://www.plantauthority.gov.in/crop-guidelines.htm
DUS Centers, http://www.plantauthority.gov.in/dus-center.htm
Frequently Answered Questions, http://www.plantauthority.gov.in/pdf/FinalNewFAQ15.09.2020.pdf