Intellectual Property & Farmers' Rights Conference

Opened by Mr Peter Reading, Managing Director, Grains Research and Development Corporation

This conference considered the impact of intellectual property upon farming, agriculture and biotechnology. It considered the various interests of farmers and growers, research and development corporations, technology developers, and government agencies.

In 2004, there have been a number of key developments in patent law, plant breeder's rights, and contract law. Locally, the Federal Court of Australia has handed down an important decision in litigation between Cultivaust and the Grain Pool of Western Australia with respect to plant breeder's rights and farm saved seed. The Supreme Court of Victoria ordered the destruction of patented stone fruit trees in Swan Hill because of a breach of contract. Overseas, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada held that a prairie farmer, Percy Schmeiser, had infringed a patent held by Monsanto in respect of glyphosate resistant canola. This forum explores the ramifications of these important precedents in law and policy.

Internationally, there has been much debate about international trade, and the protection of geographical indications of origin. The European Union has advocated extended international protection of certain wines, spirits, and foodstuffs, such as Feta, and Parma Ham. Australia and the United States have been reluctant to support a formal multilateral system of registration for geographical indications for all products.

This conference also considered the issue of gene technology regulation. The Gene Technology Regulator has approved the release of a number of GM canola crops owned by Bayer and Monsanto. However, state governments - Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia - have imposed moratoriums on GM crops, expressing concerns about the impact on export markets. The conference considers possible resolutions to this impasse between the Australian Government and the state governments.

Kathryn Adams
, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture, Griffith University
Craig Cormick
, Manager, Public Awareness, Biotechnology Australia
Professor Mark Janis
, H. Blair & Joan V. White Intellectual Property Law Scholar, College of Law, University of Iowa
Peter Lawrence, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania 
Jacqueline Peel, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, The University of Melbourne 
Dr Matthew Rimmer, Lecturer, Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture, The Australian National University
Graeme Smith, Broadacre Farmer, Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia, National Farmers' Federation Farm Chemical Sub Committee Member
Paul Strickland, Counsellor, Delegation of the European Commission to Australia and New Zealand 
Associate Professor William Van Caenegem, Faculty of Law, Bond University