The Regime Complex for Plant Genetic Resources

53 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2003

See all articles by Kal Raustiala

Kal Raustiala

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

David G. Victor

UC San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy


This article examines the implications of rising density on the evolution of international institutions. Despite the increase in international institutions scholarship on regimes has continued to embrace the assumption that individual regimes are decomposable from others. We contend that an increasingly common phenomenon is the "regime complex": a collective of partially-overlapping and non-hierarchical regimes. Regime complexes develop in special, often path-dependent ways. They are laden with legal inconsistencies because the rules in one regime are rarely negotiated in the same institution or at the same time as rules in related regimes. The architects of these regimes attempt to avoid the most serious inconsistencies by adopting broad rules that allow for multiple interpretations; in turn, solutions refined through efforts at implementing these rules focus later rounds of negotiation and legalization. We illustrate the concept and the evolution of a regime complex using the rarely-studied issue of plant genetic resources (PGR). Over the last century governments have created property rights in these resources in a Demsetzian process: as new technologies and ideas have made PGR far more valuable, firms and governments have mobilized and clashed over the creation of property rights that allow the appropriation of that value.

Keywords: international regimes, property rights, environment, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Raustiala, Kal and Victor, David G., The Regime Complex for Plant Genetic Resources. Available at SSRN: or

Kal Raustiala (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-794-4856 (Phone)

David G. Victor

UC San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

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