Small-scale Farmers and the Impact of Intellectual Property Rights Protection in Industrial Agriculture
Michael Lanser, Senior Legal Counsel, Skandia Mutual Life Insurance Company, Sweden
This paper addresses the specific link between developed countries policies on intellectual property rights (IPRs) and its economical outcome for small-scale farmers with regard to food security, one perspective from which food security can be studied. Food security is a major problem in developing countries. It is a concern at all levels, from individuals to States. At a basic level, food security is about fulfilling each individual’s human right to food. Within the broad question of the human right to food, food security also relates to issues of agricultural policy and economic development. The extension of IPRs to agriculture is of special significance because agriculture and food security are closely interlinked. In agricultural biotechnology IPRs are advocated to provide a basic incentive to private actors to develop seeds that produce higher yields or have specific qualities which, as claimed by these actors, improve food security and agriculture management. Contrary to this, the critics mean that the introduction and strengthening of IPRs in the agricultural sector of developing countries is one reason, among several, which strongly contributes to ecological degradation and diminishing biodiversity, and, further, having a negative impact on agricultural productivity and food security. The situation of the small-scale farmers should also be understood in the light of the concentration of market activity and dominance of transnational corporations in strategic segments of the world food economy: provision of inputs, trade in agricultural commodities and food processing, and food retailing. Moreover, a multitude of conceptual and practical issues can be addressed in the context of the paradigmatic shift from a system seeking to foster food security on the basis of the free exchange of knowledge to a system seeking to achieve the same goal on the basis of the private appropriation of knowledge.
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