Article 11 of the Constitution of Kenya recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation and includes science and indigenous technologies and intellectual property (IP) rights of the people of Kenya within the scope of elements of culture that are recognised. The Constitution goes further and states in Article 11(3) (b) as follows:
“Parliament shall enact legislation to recognise and protect the ownership of indigenous seeds and plant varieties, their genetic and diverse characteristics and their use by the communities of Kenya”
It is this constitutional imperative that has resulted in the recently proposed amendments to the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act (Chapter 326 Laws of Kenya). A copy of the Seeds and Plant Varieties Amendment Bill, 2015 is available here.
The Bill proposes to rename the Centre created under section 27A of the Act as Centre for Plant Genetic Resources for food and agriculture, which would include indigenous seeds and plant varieties. In this regard, the Bill defines “plant genetic resources for food and agriculture” as “any genetic material of plant origin of actual or potential value for food and agriculture including indigenous seeds and plant varieties.”
Readers may recall that the amended section 27A was enacted in 2012. The Centre has among others the stated function of protecting the ownership of indigenous seeds and plant varieties, their genetic and diverse characteristics associated indigenous knowledge and its use by the communities of Kenya. The Bill proposes that this Centre be established as Plant Genetic Resources Research Centre which shall be a Centre under the Genetic Resources Research Institute established by section 31 of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act, 2013.
Among the functions of the proposed Plant Genetic Resources Research Centre, the Bill proposes that the Centre shall undertake the collection of all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture including wild crop varieties and the relevant intangible knowledge. With regard to oversight, the Bill proposes that there shall be a Plant Genetic Resources Advisory Committee which shall be responsible for providing guidelines on matters relating to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The Centre will have a Director who will work with the Committee in management of the Centre.