China a Victim of Basmati Rice Syndrome

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China appears poised to do something on the biodiversity front:

China remains vulnerable to bio-pirates who plunder its biological resources such as plants, animals and their genetic material, a senior environment official has said.

Wu Xiaoqing, deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said in a recent interview in Beijing that foreign companies patent the stolen resources and then sell them on the Chinese and world markets.

Your average developing country gets extremely annoyed when its domestic resources are patented by foreigners. When local firms then have to send royalty payments abroad for the use of those resources, well, that’s not such a good situation.

The most famous case was the fight between India and the U.S. over Basmati rice patents. China seems rather upset about soybean patents.

Apparently the Chinese government, which has sat on this issue for years, has developed some sort of preliminary outline from which several agencies are moving forward with legislation. This could be interesting.

3 responses on “China a Victim of Basmati Rice Syndrome

  1. Chris Devonshire-Ellis

    Well, things get a bit murky when you claim an entire plant species as your own, even if it is indigenous. Someone has to pay for the R&D costs, and if that someone has uncovered uses that the Chinese haven’t then tough. Soybeans have been grown globally for decades now. Or perhaps Beijing is prepared to compensate the South American countries for the introduction of the chilli pepper, now so much part of Sichuan cuisine, or the Brasilians for the coffee plantations in Yunnan ? If anyone can track down decendents of Marco Polo that’d be a battle royal over the potential royalties for noodles. Best a Pandoras Box Beijing may be well advised not to open too far…”Basmati” was a slightly different case as the name relates to a specific area of India, not an invention. Just as “Whisky” is recognised only as being Scottish in origin by the EU and US. I saw a Horse pulling a cart laden with oranges this morning on the way to work. Th

  2. Chris Devonshire-Ellis

    …that type of horse has it’s origins in Persia, not China (descendant of the famous “Dragon horses” that sweated blood 2,000 years ago) and the orange is grown in Hainan from imported seeds from Florida. Patents ? I’d love to see that…

  3. Stan Post author

    You’re talking about patents as well as geographical indications. Two very interesting IP issues when discussing national/cultural IP. The Europeans of course have been the most active in the GI area.

    Agreed that this can go a little too far sometimes, but there are some pretty good international rules for dealing with these issues. Moreover, I understand why certain countries can get their knickers in a twist over predatory IP registrations, particularly when their only experience with IP is paying license fees to foreigners.