Cabinet have, during their meeting of 10 December 2014 approved the tabling in Parliament of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Amendment Bill and Plant Improvement Amendment Bill. In a media statement, it was stated that the Plant Breeders’ Rights Amendment Bill is aimed at strengthening the protection of intellectual property rights relevant to new varieties of plants, contributing to economic growth and positively impacting South Africa’s competitiveness in the agricultural sector.

Key amendments include extending protection to all plant genera and species; addressing matters of infringement of plant breeders’ rights through the appropriate fines and penalties; defining the limits and the beneficiaries in the application of farmer’s privilege; and empowering the Minister to establish a Plant Breeders’ Rights Advisory Committee to advise the Registrar on matters related to plant variety protection.

The Plant Improvement Bill amendments include aligning the scope and provisions of the Plant Improvement Act to the Constitution and other related legislation in the agricultural sector. In addition, the Bill includes provisions regulating the quality of plants and seed. These amendments are significant in that the importance of quality plant propagating material to support sustainable production as well as participation in the global market by setting quality standards for plants and seeds is recognised.