EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 57 costly. Investments need to be made upfront as creating a new plant variety often takes seven to 12 years. This also means that the plant breeder needs to have a vision of the desired product more than 10 years ahead of time. It is probably for these reasons that plant breeding has become a very cutting-edge process that quickly takes up new innovations. The result of plant breeding comes in the form of biologi- cal material, i.e. a new plant variety. But unlike other industry sectors, creating a self-reproducing product means this prod- uct that takes years of hard labour and high investment can be easily copied. So in order to encourage investments and provide continuous incentives for further innovation in plant breeding, there needs to be a system to ensure a return on investment. These incentives come in the form of plant breeders’ rights. This was already recognized at the beginning of the 1900’s when the first plant breeders’ rights acts were developed in various coun- tries. Plant breeders’ rights are a form of an open-source system where access to the protected material is guaranteed through the so-called breeders’ exemption. Having a fair system for the return on investment has always stimulated quick innovation in plant breeding and has provided numerous benefits to various stakeholders in society. Consumers and society as a whole benefit from such an arrangement because of the continuous provision of improved, safer, healthier and less expensive food, less environmental harm and better choice of products developed by a diverse breeding industry that is working in healthy competition. Farmers and growers benefit from plant breeders’ rights by having a rich choice from a wide range of new and improved varieties. And everybody involved in the plant breeding sector benefits because they have the possibility to use newly developed improved varie- ties for further breeding work without any obligations to ask for a license from or pay royalties to the right holder. This means that the breeders’ exception allows for fast- track innovation by giving free access to the newly developed variety for further breeding, resulting in a reduction of time and resources, as development will be quicker. It also means there is an immediate information and technology transfer. The free availability of new varieties for further breeding allows all the information and technology included in the variety is also read- ily available for the next developer. The fact that the variety is physically available directly enables technology transfer. The free availability of these newly developed genetic resources provides the right incentives for their continuous use and is a constant contribution to biodiversity. This open-innova- tion system also preserves and promotes a diversified breeding industry consisting of a wide range of breeding companies of different size. THE CONCEPT OF FARMERS’ RIGHTS When thinking about Article 9 and the concept of farmers’ rights as embedded therein, it is important to keep in mind the his- torical context as outlined above, but it is equally important to observe the structure of the article. Article 9(1) recognizes the enormous and continuous contribution of farmers to the conser- vation and development of plant genetic resources. This para- graph, in legal terms, does not provide for anything but is rather of a political nature giving credit to the work of farmers over the past centuries and setting the context of the concept of farmers’ rights. It also confirms the approach that seems to crystalize Figure 1: Overlapping membership of UPOV & the International Treaty