Small-scale Farmers and the Impact of Intellectual Property Rights Protection in Industrial Agriculture

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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.

Michael Lanser holds a degree of Master of Laws from Stockholm University, Sweden, and a postgraduate Master of Laws degree in Comparative Law, Economics and Finance (LL.M. CLEF) from the International University College of Turin jointly with the University of Turin, Italy. He has been practicing law professionally since 1992. At present Michael Lanser works as a senior legal counsel at Skandia Mutual Life Insurance Company in Sweden. Additionally, Michael Lanser has served as a member of the board of directors of a Swedish asset management company and of an alternative investment fund company domiciled in Luxembourg. Previous, after graduating from Stockholm University, Michael Lanser was admitted to service as law clerk of a district court in Stockholm, Sweden, and, afterwards, he pursued continued education for judicial office as a reporting clerk at Svea Court of Appeal, Stockholm.

Skandia Mutual Life Insurance Company is a mutual insurance company incorporated and registered in Sweden, and the parent company within the Skandia group. The Skandia group is one of the largest independent providers of products for long-term savings and investments in Sweden. The Skandia group originally started out its Swedish insurance business in 1855. Skandia offer products and services that cater for various financial needs and security. Its operations are based on a combination of savings, insurance, advice and administration. The number of employees in the Skandia group are a little over 2,000 and the group has about 2 million customers.

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