Farmers’ Rights and Open Source Licensing
Arizona Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 1, No. 2
52 Pages Posted: 10 May 2010 Last revised: 28 Apr 2011
Date Written: May 6, 2010
The TRIPS treaty requires that WTO members offer patent or sui generis protections for plant life. Yet, many developing countries oppose intellectual property for plant life because, for those nations, plant IP has proven to be financially, environmentally, and socially detrimental. The farmers‘ rights movement has grown out of such opposition and is an effort on the part of interest groups and developing countries to afford subsistence farmers control over farming methods and compensation for their contribution to the world‘s biodiversity. Developing nations and farmers‘ rights groups have spearheaded multiple treaties aiming to curtail plant monopoly rights; however, the treaties have been ineffective and the growing strength of plant monopolies in developed countries is unlikely to wane. Meanwhile, farmers need a solution that allows them to maintain control over their farming practices, preserve traditional cross-breeding methods, and receive compensation for their contribution to the state of the art of crop varieties. Open source provides such a solution. An open-source regime protecting farmer-developed plant varieties would utilize intellectual property and copyleft-inspired seed wrap licenses to generate a pool of plant species that farmers could freely grow, improve, and market. Open source programs would further farmers‘ rights by protecting farmer-developed resources from predatory monopolization and by providing an entity through which farmers can share information and have a voice in agriculture-related policy-making. Additionally, open source pools would act to conserve biodiversity and promote environmentally-friendly farming by encouraging farmers to cultivate plant varieties adapted to local climates and disease instead of using mass-produced seed and treating heavily with pesticides.
Keywords: TRIPS, WTO, patent, plant life, farmers rights, farming, biodiversity, open source
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