Intellectual Property Rights in Biotechnology and the Fate of Poor Farmers' Agriculture
Journal of World Intellectual Property, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 91-132, January 2006
Posted: 22 Oct 2005
The recent revolution in the field of biotechnology has triggered off another round of controversy between the developed countries of the North and the developing countries of the South concerning access to genetic resources and equitable sharing of its benefits. Developed countries assert ownership claim on associated technologies, while developing countries claim ownership of genetic resources. The heart of the matter however, lies in the application of conflicting conventions and protocols in respect of genetic resources and biotechnology: genetic resources are treated as public goods, while biotechnology is treated as a private good. Developing countries who claim ownership to large reserve of the earth's pool of genetic resource feel that this exposes them to the exploitative tendencies of Multinational Corporations (MNC), that are mainly owned by developed countries of the North. Multinational corporations exploit the advantages as well as the weaknesses in the various conventions to increasingly monopolise the seed and germplasm industry, without due consideration for farmers and developing countries. The paper analyzes these developments and proposes that a better regime of benefit sharing that recognises farmers or indigenous rights alongside patents and plant breeders' rights will go a long way to introducing a more even playing ground that is mutually favourable to both parties.
Keywords: Intellectual property rights, biotechnology, genetic resources, farmers' rights
JEL Classification: O34, O30, O10, Q16, F42, D63
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