If humanity were to allow every cultivated ecosystem of the planet to lie fallow, each would quickly return to a state of nature close to that in which it existed 10,000 years ago. Wild flora and fauna far stronger than those existing today would overwhelm cultivated plants and domesticated animals. Nine-tenths of the human population would perish because, in this Garden of Eden, simple predation (hunting, fishing, gathering) would certainly not feed more than 500 million people. If such an “ecological disaster” were to occur, industry would be of little assistance, since it is not yet in a position to synthesize food for humanity on a large scale, and will not be able to do so quickly. There is no other way to feed 20 billion people or 5 billion people than to continue to cultivate the planet by increasing domestic plants and animals while controlling wild ones.

Marcel Mazoyer and Laurence Roudart[1]


Potato (solanum tuberosum) county Fürstenfeldbruck – © PBRights

The evolution of the human civilizations is linked to the development of agriculture. 10,000 years ago, in the Neolithic epoch, earliest systems of cultivation and animal breeding appeared as a result of a long evolutionary process. This evolutionary process was characterized by the development of sophisticated stone tools and knowledge about the natural resources, which made possible the adaptation of wild plants to cultivation. The adaptation process of wild plants was characterized by domestication: the most favored species were cultivated and its seeds replanted and selected aiming to maximizing positive traits in order to produce important effects, like pest resistance, drought tolerance (etc.). The process of domestication leaded to the origin of new species critical for human survival.[2]

With the discovery of the laws of inheritance by Gregor Mendel in the mid-1800s the process of improving crop production received its first scientific basis. Further advances in science lead to diverse new technologies to achieve targeted and desirable changes in the nature of plants, leading to new varieties.

Considering the crucial importance of increasing domestic plants while controlling wild ones – as MAZOUIER and ROUDART state in the quote above – the development of new varieties is socially desirable. However, the process of breeding new varieties depends on investment of time and economic resources. Within this context the Plant Breeder´s Rights system is an instrument that by delivering protection (exclusivity) aims to stimulate breeders to invest in the development of new varieties.

Such kind of instrument, which must reconcile different interests, is a complex one. The aim of the present handbook is to deal with this complexity by providing the reader with a practical and critical insight in the structure of the Plant Breeder´s Rights system.

[1] MAZOYER, Marcels and ROUDART, Laurence. A History of World Agriculture – From the Neolithic Age to the Current Crisis. Earthscan 2006, S.19

[2] See MAZOIER/ROUDART, op.cit. See also DUVICK, Donald. Breeding of Plants, in Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, Elsevier 2007.


About this handbook

I. Object of Protection – 1) What are protectable plant varieties under the UPOV Convention

Published on May 15, 2021