A Case of the Emperor’s New Clothes?

Cordyline Red Fountain (ours) and Cordyline Design-A-Line Burgundy - identical DNA

Cordyline Red Fountain (ours) and Cordyline Design-A-Line Burgundy – identical DNA


The saga of Cordyline Red Fountain continues.

Gobsmacked we were by the decision of the NZ Plant Variety Rights’ Office to grant equal legal protection to Cordyline Roma 06 (also known as Cordyline Burgundy). It seemed that they were determined to find differences where none existed and as far as we were concerned, Cordyline Roma 06 was a generic copy with no unique, distinguishing characteristics. We could not understand why our repeated requests for a blind trial to see if the two were distinguishable were ignored.

Well, ain’t DNA just a wonderful thing? We were wrong in describing Cordyline Roma 06 as a generic copy. Not a copy at all. It has absolutely perfectly matched DNA to Cordyline Red Fountain. Identical DNA.

We had plants DNA tested in a specialist DNA laboratory in Australia. The comparator variety, Cordyline Pinot Noir showed in excess of 5000 markers of difference. Cordyline Red Fountain and Cordyline Roma 06 showed… none. None at all.

This surely disproves the claim made repeatedly by Malcolm Woolmore that he went back and repeated the original cross. We were always sure that was not true, because of aspects of that original cross known only to us. He did not have access to the original breeder plants we had here, so he would have used different parent plants and the DNA would have shown that.

So what now? In the light of this independent, scientific evidence, will the NZ Plant Variety Rights’ Office review the original application and data submitted and reject the original proposal? This is what we thought should have happened from the very beginning. DNA evidence is now deemed sufficient to send somebody to jail for life in murder trials. We are not suggesting that this would be an appropriate action in this case, but we are waiting to see what will happen next.

New Zealand is a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties in Plants (UPOV) so this situation will not sit in isolation but is already receiving international scrutiny.

Cordyline Red Fountain and Cordyline Burgundy - side by side garden centre plants, apparently with identical DNA

Cordyline Red Fountain and Cordyline Burgundy – side by side garden centre plants, apparently with identical DNA

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9 thoughts on “A Case of the Emperor’s New Clothes?

  1. Dr Hawi Winter (Consultant Chemist)

    I find it very interesting/appalling, that you had to go to DNA fingerprinting to prove your case.
    Could you please tell me the lab where one can get DNA comparisons done. I am trying to identify Bromeliads and hybrid parentage and wonder if that method would do the trick. I suppose it is not cheap!?

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It will be even more interesting if the NZ PVR Office refuses to acknowledge this situation! Do you want to email me for details on the lab – it is in Australia which may be a problem for you?

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Thanks Paul. I edited your comment slightly (for legal reasons, you understand – not because I disagreed in any way with what you are saying!).

  2. nays

    It always makes me sad to see a person selling someone else’s work as their own. I hope you will be compensated in the end – although usually it seems it’s not worth the battle.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Compensation would be nice, so would an apology but reality says we may be lucky just to get an acknowledgement of this situation!

  3. Pingback: A Tale of Two Plants | Tikorangi The Jury Garden

  4. William

    If this really be the case (as I trust it is), then you should be able to take the NZ Plant Variety Rights’ Office to court and have a judge rule for DNA verification.
    Good luck, don’t give up the fight!
    Make them eat crow!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It is not that simple, unfortunately. We can’t afford to take the New Zealand government to court. The costs would be way in excess of any return by way of royalties. And we are working on such outdated legislation in this country with regard to plant variety rights that it pre-dates DNA testing so that is not admissible evidence. We think that it it is most likely that they have granted plant variety rights to the same plant twice, but we may have to wait a little longer for the legislation and the science to catch up and prove that beyond all doubt. It will happen. We just take the long view.

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