Intellectual Property Rights and Food Security in the South

External Author: 
7/3 Journal of World Intellectual Property (2004) p. 261-86

Laws and policies guiding agricultural management have changed considerably over the past couple of decades. The basic aim has remained the alleviation of food insecurity but the conceptual and legal framework within which this is achieved has been comprehensively modified. While the international legal and policy framework proposed in the 1980s emphasised the free availability and transfer of germplasm, today, the emphasis is on appropriation through sovereign rights and intellectual property rights. Existing legal instruments consider in some detail the rights of states, commercial plant breeders and biotechnologists. They, however, do not give much consideration to the rights of farmers even though their tremendous role in agricultural management is recognised. This article addresses this specific aspect and examines ways in which developing countries can rebalance the law and policy framework by introducing legal protection to recognise and promote farmers’ contribution to food security and sustainable agricultural management. The starting point for this enquiry is the TRIPS Agreement but this article also explores other avenues for sui generis protection which takes into account other relevant treaties in the field.