This review examines the categorization of Essentially Derived Varieties (EDV) introduced in the 1991 revision of the Convention of the Union internationale pour la protection des obtentions végétales
(UPOV). Other non-UPOV member countries (India, Malaysia, and Thailand) have also introduced the concept of essential derivation. China, a UPOV member operating under the 1978 Convention, is introducing EDVs via seed laws. Challenges in the implementation of the concept and progress made to provide greater clarity and more efficient implementation are reviewed, including in Australia and India. The current approach to EDV remains valid provided (i) clarity on thresholds can be achieved including through resource intensive research on an individual crop species basis and (ii) that threshold clarity does not lead to perverse incentives to avoid detection of essential derivation. However, technological advances that facilitate the simultaneous introduction or change in expression of more than “a few” genes may well fundamentally challenge the concept of essential derivation and require a revision of the Convention. Revision could include deletion of the concept of essential derivation coupled with changes to the breeder exception on a crop-by-crop basis. Stakeholders might also benefit from greater flexibility within a revised Convention. Consideration should be given to allowing members to choose if and when to introduce changes according to a revised Convention on a crop specific basis.
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