Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property

Africa's food security in a broken global food system: what role for plant breeders’ rights?

Chidi Oguamanam * *

Keywords: plant breeders’ rights, PBR, food security, plant genetic resources, agriculture, Africa


The food security discourse has moved from the historic emphasis on increased food production and the eradication of hunger to a holistic and multidisciplinary outlook under the food system model. However, the importance of the legal dimensions of the food system discourse has yet to be fully felt or demonstrated within the diverse disciplinary and policy spaces for understanding the food security and food system interface. This article focuses on contemporary developments in Africa on plant breeders’ rights (PBRs) – an important aspect of law and policy on innovation over plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. It observes that the focus of recent legal developments on PBRs in Africa diverges from the centrality of smallholder farmers as the principal food and agricultural producers on the continent. Critically focusing on Africa's emergent policy reversal in favour of PBRs, the article underscores how legal developments are integral to fully understanding the dynamics of food security within a fractured global food system, especially as they relate to the African continent.

Author Notes

LL.M, PhD (University of British Columbia); Professor, Faculty of Law (Common Law), University of Ottawa, Canada. E-mail: coguaman@uottawa.ca; Twitter: @chidi_oguamanam. Thanks to Nusrat Ali and Jessica Narda Saris for dedicated research support and to the editor and anonymous reviewers of this contribution for their extremely helpful assistance and interventions. This article is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Appolonia Oguamanam (1937–2010), who taught me the practical ways of small-scale farmers and sustainable agriculture.

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