The Federal Scientific and Technical Program for the Development of Agriculture for 2017–2025 (hereinafter - FNTP) focuses its performers on the creation of competitive varieties and hybrids of domestic selection.
With the exception of cereals and a number of other crops, domestic varieties are still weakly or generally uncompetitive before foreign ones. Domestic agricultural producers prefer an expensive, but reliable product from well-known manufacturers - world leaders in the industry. After all, the Bible says: “He who sows sparingly, he will also reap sparingly, and he who sows generously, he will reap generously.”
And the world leaders of the industry, meanwhile, are actively building up their already considerable financial and technological potential through well-known mergers and acquisitions. With practically unlimited financial capabilities, they actively influence the market of varieties and hybrids in Russia. And they are not going to leave it yet.
However, Russia can and should act as an active player in the global seed market, choosing which seeds it is profitable to produce (where we have good genetics, strong varieties and hybrids), and selling it to the world, and not just grain.
A significant gap between the development and implementation of the achievements of domestic breeding science in real production remains a serious obstacle to entering the world level. The resource potential of the FNTP is represented by 208 research institutes and 21 large interdisciplinary research centers of the Ministry of Science of Russia, 29 organizations in the system of the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia, 54 industry universities, 22 institutions of additional professional education. However, at present, scientific organizations and agricultural universities often function without taking into account the real needs of the market, and the forms of their integration into real production do not correspond to modern challenges.
Therefore, the creation of organizational and economic conditions for the sustainable development of the domestic seed market and the improvement of mechanisms for its regulation is impossible without the participation of business. Yes, the Russian government pays attention to targeted subsidies to the industry aimed at attracting private capital. In 2016-2017, about 300 million rubles have been allocated for seed-breeding centers. In addition, subsidies for the production of seed potatoes, seeds of open field vegetables, corn, sugar beets and sunflowers are maintained. 11,3 billion rubles have been allocated for these purposes. But are these funds allocated from the state budget comparable with the budgets of transnational corporations?
World experience shows that in a market economy it is not realistic to rely only on budget financing. Even if the state finds at least some of the necessary funds, there is no certainty about their effective use. There is only one way out. It is necessary to attract private capital. Only after jumping off the needle of state funding, Russian breeding will stop working idle.
In Germany, the state finances only basic science, and applied research is privately funded. Breeding, at the junction of fundamental and applied science, is a highly profitable business, vitally interested in the speedy implementation of basic scientific research. But this was not always and not everywhere in Germany. The leaders of the GDR tried to carefully copy the experience of the USSR, including in organizing the selection and seed production process. After the unification of the country, state breeding institutes were privatized, and their varietal potential was subjected to rigorous revision. After all, every unclaimed variety is money thrown away, which in itself is an impermissible luxury for zealous Germans. Some varieties were left to "live their life" along with the "collective farmers" accustomed to them. And the most promising varieties for the new market began to be actively introduced into production already according to “western” standards.
To reach the world level, similar problems in one form or another will have to be addressed by the Russian selection. Throughout the world, the creation of new varieties pays off by collecting royalties. If the variety created is not used, there is no royalty. There is nothing to create new varieties for. Royalty is the air without which selection will simply suffocate, the foundation of a successful and firmly (I would even say - rigidly) built into the actual production of selection. It is very significant that in the German Federal Breeders Union (BDP), only 20 people are purposefully collecting royalties for the use of certified and “on-farm” seeds, combined in a specially created structure for these purposes - STV with an annual budget of 3, 1 million euros (1 % agency). This is called a responsible approach to refinancing breeding and introducing varieties into commercial circulation.
FNTP provides for the formation of incentive measures for its participants, which should facilitate the gradual transition of agricultural producers to the use of domestic technologies and products. It is planned to implement measures aimed at transferring scientific and technical results to practical use. But how will this transfer to practical use occur? And why didn’t they transmit it before? Really there were no worthy grades? Were! And not a little! But they grew mainly in the State Register, and not in the fields. There are serious concerns that the situation will happen again.
Why? First of all, because there is practically no modern legislative and regulatory framework for breeding and seed production in the country. The "test tube to bag" path is replete with obstacles that are formidable even for serious investors. The holes in the legal field must be urgently repaired. Otherwise, all investments (and the FNTP implies financing of projects of subprograms on crops by business and from the federal budget in equal shares) will not give the expected effect.
The Bible says: “... and no one pours new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the young wine will break through the bellows, and it will flow out, and the bellows will be lost; but young wine must be poured into new wineskins; then both will be saved. ”
To ask when the new law on seed production will be adopted is already somehow inconvenient. But even if it does not become obsolete at the time of adoption, it will not solve all problems. We need a whole package of accompanying laws and regulations governing the protection of copyrights in breeding achievements, the fight against counterfeiting, the creation of special seed production zones, the optimization of the variety testing and registration of varieties, the improvement of the certification system, the procedure for exchanging seed and planting material for research purposes, and strengthening control GMO content, phytosanitary surveillance, etc.
The Ministry of Agriculture understands this well, and the list of necessary changes, additions and abolitions has already been drawn up. But this is just a list, and how much additional time will be required for the preparation of all these documents, their discussion, rejection, revision, "hanging", etc. etc.? Who, when and how will this be done?
All over the world, industry unions are involved in the creation and promotion of draft laws and regulations with the involvement of highly paid experts and lobbyists. It is urgent to find the necessary funds and "harness" this work! There is no time left for the buildup, and there are no “knights” who are ready to gallantly wait for the “beautiful lady” - the Russian selection, to finally deign to show themselves to the world in all their glory, among our competitors in the global seed market, alas, are not observed.
By the way, in 1945, when the BDP was created in Hannover occupied by the allies, there could be no question of any rich material and technical base, financial power and competitiveness of the German selection. German breeders then united not against the seeds of the victorious countries, but in order to jointly create the framework legal prerequisites for the rapid creation and introduction into production of highly productive varieties. They both created and implemented them without asking the state for any pfenning and without complaining in vain about the destroyed system of selection and seed production. Small (often family) and medium-sized companies - the basis of German breeding, were able to rise from the post-war ashes in the shortest possible time and go to the world level.
The attempts made by individual Russian industrial unions to create the legal field they need are sporadic and fragmented, and therefore extremely ineffective. It seems appropriate to combine efforts under the auspices of one of the unions (the most “toothy”) or within the framework of a working group. The end result is more important than ambition. I also think that such an initiative will find understanding both among young ministers (agrarian and science) and the experienced vice-premier.
The implementation of the FNTP by 2025 should reduce the risks in the field of food security by reducing the share of products produced using foreign technologies from imported seeds and breeding material. Let me remind you that the FNTP was developed in pursuance of Presidential Decree No. 350 "On measures to implement state scientific and technical policy in the interests of agricultural development." And, as you know, our President strictly and effectively controls the execution of his decrees. Therefore, there is no doubt that the final target indicators of the FNTP will be met.
There is a great temptation to achieve this by purely administrative methods. For example, through volitional regulation of the ratio of foreign and domestic varieties in the State Register. But it is unlikely that large Russian agricultural holdings will agree with the imposition of the "correct" variety policy on them, depriving them of the possibility of free and responsible choice in the conditions, thank God, of an already established market economy. The purpose of the business is to make a profit, and not to determine the “nationality” of a selection achievement. The “friend or foe” criterion, far-fetched in high offices, is of no interest to anyone in fields where the ratio of price and quality is much more important.
Moreover, such a short-sighted approach will inevitably lead to curtailing international cooperation in the field of selection, which throughout the world has long acquired a supranational character. And this was precisely the main factor in its accelerated development.
Yes, the escalation of sanctions and counter-sanctions does not contribute to the development of international cooperation, including in the field of selection. Recently, one often hears accusations against Western partners in a one-sided approach to cooperation, aimed only at exporting seeds and related technologies to Russia. And Russian competitive varieties and hybrids, allegedly, are not allowed on European markets, in connection with which the development of mirror responses is unreasonably proposed. There are also concerns about the possible cessation (under pressure from across the ocean) of supplies from Europe to Russia of seeds of the most import-dependent crops.
But, excuse me, it is Russia that prohibits the import of Western agricultural products, and not vice versa. Europe is already groaning from the Russian food embargo (annual losses - up to 8,3 billion dollars!) To give way to the seed market. Germany did not concede in the "Nord Stream - 2", despite the colossal pressure from overseas. And then, no one in our country has yet tried to enter European markets in compliance with the necessary and equal procedures for all non-EU countries to obtain the status of equivalence of variety testing and certification systems.
The procedure for obtaining equivalence status was presented by the German Variety Department (with the assistance of the German-Russian Agrarian-Political Dialogue Cooperation Project) at the first All-Russian field day in Altai Krai in 2016. However, "things are still there." Meanwhile, the relevant EU commission is already considering applications for cultural equivalence status from Ukraine, Moldova and several other countries.
When making a final decision on granting equivalence status, the Commission must formally request an opinion on the applicant country from the European Seed Association (ESA). The BDP is a significant member of the ESA and actively participates in the development of relevant proposals submitted by the ESA to the EU Commission. In order to develop bilateral cooperation in the field of breeding and seed production, and guided by the spirit of partnership, the BDP expresses its readiness to support the corresponding application of Russia to the EU. German breeders are interested in creating a globally competitive breeding and seed production system in Russia. Agree, it is better to compete on equal terms than to fear that a weak competitor will resort to non-market mechanisms and lobby for the introduction of prohibitive protectionist measures at the state level.
BDP together with the National Union of Breeders and Seed Breeders (NSSiS) developed proposals for the development of German-Russian cooperation in the field of plant breeding and seed production. They include priority measures, without which a breakthrough of Russian selection into a brighter future is impossible. Namely:
- development and implementation of additional measures to increase the investment attractiveness of breeding developments on the basis of public-private partnerships and privatization;
- ensuring reliable copyright protection for breeding achievements;
- improving the system of state variety testing and registration of varieties;
- improving the procedure for importing seeds for research purposes;
- Giving the Russian Federation the status of equivalence to the system of state variety testing of the EU;
- further integration of the Russian Federation into the international seed certification system;
- facilitating the entry of Russian industry unions into international associations of breeders and seed growers;
- improvement of the mechanism for interaction between the NPPOs of the two countries;
- the use of positive foreign experience in the development of domestic procedures necessary for the implementation of the Agreement of the Member States of the Eurasian Economic Union on the circulation of seeds of agricultural plants;
- Implementation of joint breeding and seed projects based on the existing proposals of the regional representative offices of the NSSiS and Russian state research institutes.
Unfortunately, to date, attempts to involve the ministries and departments of the two countries in the implementation of these proposals in the form of an approved plan or roadmap have failed. Apparently, everyone is satisfied with the existing regulatory framework for cooperation - the Joint statement of two ministers of intentions in the field of selection and seed production from 2013.
This very framework document has undoubtedly played a positive role. Under the auspices of the Cooperation Project "German-Russian Agrarian-Political Dialogue" a number of events were held with the participation of representatives of the legislative and executive authorities of the two countries, industry unions. Important principal agreements were reached on the main areas of work for the benefit of breeders and seed growers in Russia and Germany. At the same time, the practice of working within the framework of the Joint Statement of Intent has shown that many intentions remained so. Therefore, we need a tougher imperative indicating responsible executors, terms and forms of execution.
As you can see, there is a lot of difficult but interesting work ahead! I want to wish all of us success in it!
Sergey Platonov, http://agro-max.ru