Rights or ability : Access to plant genetic resources in India

Patnaik, A.; Jongerden, J.P.; Ruivenkamp, G.T.P.


The difficulties that stakeholders face in accessing plant genetic resources have been a concern of many scholars since the introduction of intellectual property rights. One of these issues is that of access, which is mostly approached from a rights perspective. Here it is argued that such a rights perspective limits a critical reflection on the possibilities for enhancing accessibility to the Plant Genetic Resources (PGRs) on three grounds and to go beyond this limitation, we introduce an ability perspective. The ability perspective brings into focus how farmers organise their access to PGRs and is researched in four PGRs conservation banks in India; one ex situ and three in situ. An informal system of conservation (in situ) and sharing through informal networks is found to provide better access mechanisms for the small and marginal farmers in India, while access to conserved resources stored at the three in situ banks created biosocial
relations and biosocial commons. However, each case studied had certain disadvantages in respect of granting access to the farmers, so additional mechanisms to facilitate better access to the conserved resources are suggested.