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1 October 2009

IPR: Thailand looks into new ‘Jazzman’ rice developed in US

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Thai government is examining whether America’s newly-developed aromatic 'Jazzman' rice, similar to the famous premium grade Thai jasmine rice, violates any intellectual property rights, Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Polabutr was quoted by state news agency TNA as saying Wednesday.

The aromatic Thai Jasmine rice, also called Thai fragrant rice, known locally as Khao Hom Mali, is well-known as the world's premium grade rice for its long grain, unique aroma and subtle pandan-like flavor.

The Louisiana State University Agricultural Centre (LSU Agcentre) recently announced that it successfully developed a new variety of aromatic rice, known as LA2125 with a very similar fragrance, soft grain and quality as Thai jasmine rice and named it "Jazzman rice".

The announcement caused concerns among Thai rice exporters and farmers, saying that the Jazzman rice may pose a threat to Thailand’s Jasmine rice industry and the kingdom's rice exports as consumers may become confused due to the similar name and quality.

The United States is one of Thailand’s major rice export markets, importing about 400,000 tonnes of Thai Jasmine rice each year.

Alongkorn said the Thai government has assigned the Department of Intellectual Property to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture, the Rice Department and the Thai embassy's Office of Commercial Affairs in the United States to determine whether the Louisiana-produced US Jazzman rice was developed from Thai Jasmine rice.

The deputy commerce minister added that the government will also ask for cooperation from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in the Philippines to help verify the origin of the US-bred Jazzman rice.

"If it is found that the genes of Thai Jasmine rice have been used for production and distribution for commercial purposes, the Thai government will take action against what it is considered as violation of copyrights and intellectual property," said Alongkorn.

The minister also affirmed that he would speed up inspection and investigation of the issue to allay concerns of Thai farmers and rice exporters.

Alongkorn added that the Ministry of Commerce plans to boost the export of Thai Jasmine rice in overseas markets by improved packaging and value-added products, such as combination of green tea fragrant with Thai Jasmine rice in a bid to appeal more to Japanese customers.


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