PVP Office Now Accepting Hemp Seed DepositsOctober 5, 2021

The USDA is now indicating that it has formalized arrangements with the National Laboratory for Germplasm Resources Preservation (NLGRP) to begin accepting Hemp Seed Deposits for Plant Variety Protection Applications.

A seed deposit for a Plant Variety Protection Certificate acts as a “voucher” to prove that the application is accurate and that the applicant had possession of the seed as described in the application.  A seed deposit of 3000 seeds is required 3 months after the PVP application filing date with the NLGRP and access to these seed deposits is not allowed by the public until the PVP expires.

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA began implementing regulations consistent with the Bill’s provisions to accept Plant Variety Protection Applications for seed propagated Hemp.  In April of 2019 the office began accepting and examining applications for seed propagated hemp.  As there were then no depositories that would accept hemp seeds, the USDA had been issuing waivers for seed deposits and applicants were asked to maintain their own private deposit for the time being.

Now that arrangements have been finalized, PVP applicants for seed propagated Hemp can expect to receive a notice from the USDA requesting that a deposit be made.  Applicants are given 90 days to complete the deposit with the NLGRP and the NLGRP has confirmed that it will be testing to confirm that the variety contains less than 0.3% THC or the application will be terminated.

Other aspects of the 2018 Farm Bill relating to asexually produced plants (which can also include hemp), remain to be resolved.  Deposits for an asexually produced plant would be a lyophilized tissue culture, but costs and facilities to prepare the tissue samples have been a stumbling block.  Currently the USDA has suspended deposits of tissue cultures for 3 years and this will expire January 6, 2023.

Finalizing hemp seed deposits is a big step for Intellectual Property Protection for Hemp and with this change perhaps other seed depositories such as the ATCC will follow suit allowing for Budapest Treaty utility patent deposits as well.

Heidi S. Nebel is Managing Partner and Chair of the Biotechnology and Chemical Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit www.ipmvs.com.

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