Authorities to use DNA testing to stop illegal shipments at source in response to repetitive cases 

Egypt to implement tough measures to fight IPR infringement on exported fruit

This article was originally published in Fresh Plaza Magazine. Click here to view the original article.

Egypt’s Central Administration for Plant Quarantine has implemented tough measures to fight IPR infringement on exported fruit such as table grapes. Authorities there will use DNA testing to stop illegal shipments at source in response to repetitive cases.

Three months ago, the Customs authorities in Italy stopped two containers of illegally grown grapes of the variety Early Sweet, which belongs to the company Grapa (Freshplaza.com). 

It was the fourth incident from Egypt where exporters ship intellectually protected varieties, and were caught by the authorities.

Once the owner of the variety suspects infringement, a DNA sample is sent to an official Lab in Europe for testing, and in case of infringement the shipment gets destroyed. This means a huge loss for the exporters, packers as well as a problem between them and the farmers who illegally grow patented varieties.

Egypt has now undertaken drastic steps to stop such activities at source, especially since the country joined the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants UPOV.

Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture issued a decree, Ministerial Decree No. 387 of 2021, obliging farms and packhouses to be approved by the authorities and receive a code, in order to be eligible to export.

Months later, the Egypt’s Central Administration for Plant Quarantine has issued a decree, regulating the export process of table grapes.

Farmers or pack houses that deal with protected varieties without a license, would risk losing the validity of their code, and hence get banned from exporting. Last year, an Egyptian court ordered the destruction of 9,000 vines of grapes, which were uprooted by the local authorities in a farm in upper Egypt.

Dr Ahmed EL Attar, Head of the Egyptian Phytosanitary Authorities stated: “Egypt has been taking very serious steps to fight infringement. The Authorities have built a laboratory and have installed the most up-to-date DNA machines in order to make random checks on farms and pack houses, who are suspected to have illegal grape varieties. Any farm, exporter or pack house that deals with suspected fruit will be subject to a DNA test. Just like we check for pesticide residues as a pre-emptive step we will also check for DNA infringement.”

“It is better to stop them in Egypt, than be stopped abroad, losing money and ruining the reputation of the whole industry. This would also stop some small nurseries from illegally obtaining plant material and selling it to farmers, who later on risk being sued by breeders, or risk commercial problems marketing illegal fruit. Any breeding company which has registered and protected its varieties at the Plant Protection Office at the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, is welcome to approach us. The Egyptian Law encourages innovation, and attracts foreign investments in research, and gives protection to Breeders,” states Dr El Attar.”.

These steps have encouraged a lot of Breeders to increase their investments in Egypt and bring in new varieties which will increase quality and productivity, and ultimately help the country’s export sector as well as the small grower. Licensed growers have welcomed these steps, as they protect them from illegal cheap fruit which ruins the market says Dr El Attar.

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