Climate-Ready Crops: Intellectual Property, Agriculture, and Climate Change
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES: THE NEW BIOLOGY, Matthew Rimmer, Alison McLennan eds., pp. 320-360, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2012
Posted: 27 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 1, 2012
In The Climate Change Review, Ross Garnaut emphasised that ‘Climate change and climate change mitigation will bring about major structural change in the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors’. He provides this overview of the effects of climate change on food demand and supply: ‘Domestic food production in many developing countries will be at immediate risk of reductions in agricultural productivity due to crop failure, livestock loss, severe weather events and new patterns of pests and diseases.’ He observes that ‘Changes to local climate and water availability will be key determinants of where agricultural production occurs and what is produced.’
Gert Würtenberger has commented that modern plant breeding is particularly concerned with addressing larger issues about nutrition, food security and climate change: ‘Modern plant breeding has an increasing importance with regard to the continuously growing demand for plants for nutritional and feeding purposes as well as with regard to renewal energy sources and the challenges caused by climate changes.’ Moreover, he notes that there is a wide array of scientific and technological means of breeding new plant varieties: ‘Apart from classical breeding, technologies have an important role in the development of plants that satisfy the various requirements that industrial and agricultural challenges expect to be fulfilled.’ He comments: ‘Plant variety rights, as well as patents which protect such results, are of increasingly high importance to the breeders and enterprises involved in plant development programmes.’ There has been larger interest in the intersections between sustainable agriculture, environmental protection and food security.
The debate over agricultural intellectual property is a polarised one, particularly between plant breeders, agricultural biotechnology companies and a range of environmentalist groups. Susan Sell comments that there are complex intellectual property battles surrounding agriculture:
'Seeds are at the centre of a complex political dynamic between stakeholders. Access to seeds concerns the balance between private rights and public obligations, private ownership and the public domain, and commercial versus humanitarian objectives.'
Part I of this chapter considers debates in respect of plant breeders’ rights, food security and climate change in relation to the UPOV Convention 1991. Part II explores efforts by agricultural biotechnology companies to patent climate-ready crops. Part III considers the report of the Special Rapporteur for Food, Olivier De Schutter. It looks at a variety of options to encourage access to plant varieties with climate adaptive or mitigating properties.
Keywords: Intellectual Property, Climate Change, Food Security, Plant Breeders Rights, Patent Law, Biotechnology, Climate-Ready Crops, Farmers' Rights
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