Claire R. Parfitt and Daniel F. Robinson
We map the global intellectual property (IP) rights regime for agriculture, and the political and economic structures that support that regime. There is a particular focus on international trade agreements, and the integral role of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). We explore the ways in which this global regime translates into a convergence of agricultural IP laws at the domestic level. This is demonstrated through a review of recent legal developments in jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada and the United States that reflect a tendency towards the expansive reading of IP rights. The chapter tracks plant breeding developments during the twenty-first century, against IP law expansion and the concentration of economic power. The authors argue that there are interrelationships between socio-legal, political economic and technological developments. The emergence of plant-related IP is influenced by powerful economic interests. The establishment of the IP regime has facilitated the growth of those economic interests. While IP rights are justified on the basis that they encourage innovation, in practice, they appear to encourage only particular forms of innovation, while locking out others. Finally, the chapter explores other possibilities for regulation of agricultural inputs that may be more conducive to producer control and innovation. The authors acknowledge developments at the international level that find that a radical transformation of food and farming systems is necessary to meet future global food needs. This transformation will require changes to the ways we regulate food and farming inputs, to reduce corporate power and control, and to promote a more democratic approach to food production and distribution. Some alternative regulatory regimes in places such as India, Malaysia and Thailand are discussed briefly.