Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights for New Plant Varieties
47 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 15, 2011
Debates between developing and developed countries over access to technology to mitigate or adapt to climate change tend to overlook the importance of biotechnology. There has been little comparative analysis of competing IPR regimes for biotechnology. Moreover, the role that compulsory licensing might play in international biotechnology transfer has not been explored in depth.
This article focuses on the role of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the international transfer of new plant varieties. Climate change will increase the importance of the development of new plant varieties (primarily genetically modified ones) that can adapt to changing (and more extreme) climactic conditions. We begin our analysis by examining the science and impact of climate change. We then provide an overview of the debates regarding IPRs and international technology transfer. We argue that the impact of IPRs on international technology transfer varies from one area of technology to the next. IPRs represent a more significant obstacle to international biotechnology transfer than they do in other technologies.
Subsistence farming increases developing countries’ vulnerability to climate change and their need to access the biotechnology on favorable terms. In this regard, the issues that arise with respect to biotechnology are closer to those regarding pharmaceuticals than to those regarding clean energy technology. We therefore compare the economics of IPRs for biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. We then provide a comparative analysis of IPRs for biotechnology in the WTO TRIPS Agreement, the UPOV Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity. This analysis sheds light on the policy options available to developing countries under the current international legal regime.
Keywords: IPR, UPOV; WTO, plant varieties, climate change, CBD
JEL Classification: N5, O13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation