20 Sep OZBLU USES DNA TESTING TO ENFORCE PLANT BREEDERS RIGHTS
Perth, 20 September 2018 – A farmer based in Mpumalanga, South Africa, growing premium blueberry varieties sold under the OZblu brand, grown under license from the United Exports Group of Companies is at risk of losing their right to grow the OZ Varieties and also their investment made to date therein. Despite repeated prior warnings, they are in continuous breach of their terms of the license agreement.
Says Roger Horak, founder and global CEO of United Exports: “all the OZblu varieties and related plant material have been DNA fingerprinted by a specialised laboratory in the USA. These DNA fingerprints are kept on record to enforce patent protection of the OZblu plants and the fruit.”
Horak said the company received a tip-off that someone had been illegally selling fruit from our varieties. “We subsequently hired a Private investigator who provided the evidence and confirmed our suspicion. Despite having photographic evidence and affidavits relating to the breach, we still required scientific proof that the fruit which had been sold was an OZblu variety.”
“We packaged some of the confiscated, illegally sold fruit and sent it via courier to the USA laboratory,” said Horak. Within one week they had confirmed that the tested fruit was part of our proprietary varieties, namely OZ Julietta and OZ Magnifica. This information allowed United Exports to take the required action.
“For the most part, we have a wonderful team of growers, growing our premium blueberries, which we sell under the OZblu brand into Europe, UK, USA, Asia and South Africa. This process is as much about protecting our investments as well as our growers’ investments, and in this case, it was a concerned grower that provided us with the initial information”, said Horak.
The Company will only consider licencing the growing of the OZblu varieties in countries where legislation exists that provides rights for plant breeder protection. “The very reason we do this, is that we can enforce it, just as we have done in South Africa”, said Dave Mazzardis, co-founder of the OZblu brand and breeder. “Leasa and I have been working for well over three decades to produce these wonderful varieties, and it’s only now that we are starting to see some form of a return. For a grower to breach our agreement in this way is nothing short of theft,” says Mazzardis.
So, whether its plants’ propagation, unlawfully selling the fruit, or any other breach, with the new accessibility and accuracy of DNA testing, United Exports can quickly and accurately determine and deal with growers or anyone else who are in violation of the agreement or who infringe upon United Export’s Intellectual Property rights.
According to Horak United Exports has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to any breach of their license agreements. They have recently built a global network of ‘monitors’ using smartphone technology to monitor grower performance.
“We have all seen how DNA is used in crime series to solve crimes. Many of us may have believed it was just Hollywood, but it is certainly not. DNA testing is very real, and it is wonderful to be able to use this innovative technology while growing global business with this technology in place”, says Horak.
“A standard term of growing under license to United Exports, includes a number of events that can lead to termination without notice, and selling fruit on the black-market is typically one of these.”, explains Roger. In this case the grower acknowledged their wrong doing and we were able to agree a remedy, and since then United Exports has advised all of its growers that a zero tolerance approach will be applied going forward.