Officials and agriculture experts said on Sunday there were growing concerns over Taiwan＊s plant species protection amid legal loopholes in China, even though the two sides signed an intellectual property right (IPR) protection agreement last week.
Taiwan and China signed the IPR pact along with the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) on Tuesday last week to reinforce cross-strait efforts to protect intangible assets.
However, Warren Kuo (峎?嬬), a professor at the Department of Agronomy at National Taiwan University, said that as China has lagged behind international efforts in preventing the illegal use of plants registered by other countries, Taiwan risks a lack of appropriate protection for plant species despite signing the IPR agreement.
Kuo said Taiwan closely follows the latest version of the International Convention for Protection of New Varieties of Plants, revised in 1991, while China still adheres to the 1978 version of the convention.
Under the 1991 version, Taiwanese farmers are not allowed to retain and plant seeds registered by others without licensing, except for certain rice varieties designated by the government for food security.
However, the 1978 version of the convention allows Chinese farmers to plant Taiwan-developed seeds once they retain Taiwanese species through any channels, although they are prevented from trading in Taiwan-registered seeds.
Hsu Han-ching (?齾昑), chief secretary of the Council of 〝Agriculture＊s Food and Agriculture Agency, said he understood the concerns and urged China to revise its law as soon as possible so that it follows the 1991 version of the convention.
Hsu said he was worried that changes to laws in China would proceed slowly and that the pace of the revisions would not meet the demand for protection amid a further boom in cross-strait exchanges once the ECFA is implemented.
The official said many Chinese farmers have started to raise 〝Taiwan-registered plants, because it is easy to transport them off Taiwan.
He said Taiwanese customs authorities should tighten their control on plant smuggling to better protect Taiwan-developed varieties.
Hsu said the problems would not be solved until Taiwan and China continue talks on IPR protection after the IPR agreement and the ECFA go into effect.
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