EGYPT – Authorities in Egypt have restructured their approach to dealing with the ongoing issue of illegal cultivation of specific grape varieties by investing in the latest DNA technology.

These strict measures by Egypt’s Central Administration for Plant Quarantine are aimed at fighting IPR infringement on exported fruits, such as table grapes.

DNA testing will be used at the sourcing level to prevent the illegal export of protected grape varieties.

As clearly stipulated in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Database, the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Law No. 82 of 2002 sets forth the protection of intellectual property rights.

Book 4 of the law is concerned with plant protection for plant varieties and provides for the establishment of the Plant Variety Protection Office.

According to this law, if a protected plant has a detrimental impact on the environment, the safety of biological diversity, the agricultural sector, human health, or animal health, the breeder will be prohibited from breeding this plant.

Elsayed Abbas, the GM at the Central Administration of Plant Quarantine, announced that the Italian customs authorities intercepted two containers of illegally cultivated Early Sweet grapes belonging to Grapa last month.

As it turned out, that was actually the fourth shipment from Egypt containing intellectually protected varieties in transit.

Standard procedure for such occurrences includes sending DNA samples for testing at an official laboratory in Europe.

“In the event of infringement, the shipment is destroyed,” Abbas stated. “This results in significant losses for the exporters, and packers, and creates a problem between them and the farmers who unlawfully cultivate patented varieties.”

It is crucial that the strict measures are implemented immediately, especially since Egypt has joined the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

UPOV is an intergovernmental organization with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.

Another strategy to strengthen the enforcement of IPR infringement laws is the implementation of Ministerial Decree No. 387 of 2021 by Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture.

This decree requires farms and packhouses to obtain approval from authorities and a designated export code in order to export their products.

Egypt’s Central Administration for Plant Quarantine has issued a decree that regulates the export process for table grapes.

“Farmers or packhouses that deal with protected varieties without a license risk losing the validity of their code and being banned from exporting,” the statement read.

Referring to last year’s incident, in which an Egyptian court ordered the destruction of 9,000 grapevines, Dr. Ahmed El Attar, the head of the Egyptian Phytosanitary Authorities, emphasized the government’s zero-tolerance policy towards cases of infringement.

Installing the latest DNA machines and establishing a laboratory would greatly equip the relevant authorities to effectively combat recurring cases of IPR infringement.

According to Abbas, implementing these steps will encourage many breeders to increase their investments in Egypt.

This, in turn, will lead to the introduction of new varieties, resulting in improved quality and productivity.

Ultimately, these measures will benefit both the country’s export sector and small-scale growers.

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