Opinion: We need to stop Australia’s genetic heritage from being taken overseas

October 27, 2015

Dr Steve Wylie with the Australian native plant in high demand

Dr Steve Wylie with the Australian native plant in high demand

An Australian native plant, Nicotiana benthamiana is a species from arid zones of northern WA and is our country’s most scientifically famous plant. Murdoch University researchers report this species and its close relatives have the ability to evolve new ways to survive unpredictable environmental changes.

As the global race to develop tough new crops able to withstand climate change heats up, foreign scientists and plant breeders also see value in the genes of the Australian Nicotiana species, travelling to Australia to collect seeds to grow in labs around the world.

In an opinion piece for The Conversation, senior research associate in plant virology at Murdoch University, Dr Steve Wylie looks at the importance of building Australia’s intellectual property (IP) with its genetic heritage, and questions whether our State and Federal Governments should continue to allow the legal export of our native seeds.

“Australia’s scientists should be mining Australia’s gene bank, and all Australians should benefit from the rewards of this IP,” says Dr Wylie.

“International collaboration is the lifeblood of scientific advancement, but so is competition and protecting IP. When Australia’s genetic heritage is lodged in other countries, we have lost control of our IP.”

To read Dr Wylie’s article in full, click here.

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