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SANBI Ball Case Study

The SANBI Ball Agreement: Horticultural Development of South Africa’s Indigenous Flora

The diversity of South Africa’s indigenous flora has made a major contribution to international horticulture. At the same time, South Africa presently imports millions of bulbs, seeds and cuttings from Europe and North America. In this way, it pays royalties to foreign companies for some products that were originally derived from South African indigenous flora. The Research and Licence Agreement between the then National Botanical Institute (NBI) now the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South Africa, and the Ball Horticultural Company, USA, which came into operation in August 1999, was the first north-south bioprospecting agreement in the horticultural and floricultural sector.

The detailed and complex agreement stipulates the mutual rights and obligations of the two parties including clauses about research fees and services, confidentiality, security against unauthorized access to the plant material before its commercialization, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), profit-sharing, technology transfer, breach and termination of contract, and warranties. Although the agreement was limited to an initial period of five years, there was an option for renewal. Small samples of South African genetic resources supplied by SANBI are evaluated for traits of possible utility in the ornamental horticultural market. If such traits are found the germplasm is used in breeding programmes in the hope of developing products for the ornamental horticulture market. The SANBI Ball Agreement specifically restricts the use and development of South African genetic resources to ornamental horticultural uses.

In 2002/03 four Jamesbrittenia hybrids i.e. ‘Breeze Indigo’, ‘Breeze Lavendar’, ‘Breeze Pink’ and ‘Breeze Upright White’ and a Plectranthus hybrid ‘Mona Lavendar’ that was bred at Kirstenbosch, were released. In 2003/04 an additional Jamesbrittenia hybrid ‘Breeze Upright Lavendar’ and in 2004/05 a form of Arctotis arctoides, Lemon drop were also released. During the first phase of this project, six young horticulturists from SANBI participated in 3-month internships at Ball in Chicago.

In September 2004 the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act was passed. Chapter 6 of the Act requires that an export permit be obtained to export South African indigenous plant material. Prior to the granting of the permit, a Material Transfer Agreement and a Benefit-Sharing Agreement needs to be negotiated and approved. The Regulations to implement the requirements of this Chapter are currently being developed and it is assumed that these regulations will have some implications for this project. In the light of this, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has authorized the extension of the existing agreement until the end of August 2006 to allow for the Agreement to be re-negotiated to accommodate the requirements of the regulations.