Patent threat

Published: Tuesday 30 November 1993

A POTENTIAL threat to barley and other crops is the proposal that countries pay royalties for plant genetic materials used to create commercial varieties. Even as debate continues on the issue, developing countries have stepped up their demands for such royalties, says Henry Shands, genetic resources director at the US department of agriculture.

Shands and others worry the royalties could curtail the creation of new crop varieties, as traits are often combined to create a cultivar. If each trait's country of origin were to charge a 5 per cent royalty, "you can get to a point where the sum is greater than the whole", argues Shands.

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