The Right of Everyone to Enjoy the Benefits of Scentific Progress and the Right to Food: From Conflict to Complementarity

Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 2, p. 304-350 (May 2011)

38 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2014

Date Written: June 6, 2014

Abstract

In the area of seed policies, the dominant paradigm of agricultural development favors the strengthening of intellectual property rights in order to promote and reward innovation by the private sector, combined with the provision of improved seed varieties to farmers in order to help them produce higher yields. But this model may leave out precisely those who need most to be supported, because they are the most vulnerable, living in the most difficult environments. In contrast to dominant approach, this article argues that the poorest farmers would be the primary beneficiaries of an alternative policy, that would favor the maintenance and enhancement of agrobiodiversity by rewarding the farmers for their own innovations, and by treating genetic resources as a public good that should be made accessible to all, as has been the case traditionally in farmers' seed systems. There are other ways of putting science at the service of farmers, that may be more effective in reducing rural poverty. This article assesses in this light the complex relationship between the right to adequate food and the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. Both rights are recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. They need to be made more mutually supportive in the future, if research in agriculture is to truly serve the needs of the poor.

Keywords: Right to Science, Seeds, Intellectual Property Rights, Plant Breeders' Rights, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Suggested Citation

De Schutter, Olivier, The Right of Everyone to Enjoy the Benefits of Scentific Progress and the Right to Food: From Conflict to Complementarity (June 6, 2014). Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 2, p. 304-350 (May 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2446915

Olivier De Schutter (Contact Author)

University of Louvain (Belgium) ( email )

Place Montesquieu, 3
B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348
Belgium

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