Research of the Law and Governance Group

Food Law, International Food Production and Trade

In our research on food law and food governance the almost irreconcilable tensions are explored between markets, human rights and food safety in regulating access to and quality of food. There are tensions between market regulation and human rights but also between the human right to safety and the human right to food. The convertibility of food crops into food, (cattle) feed or fuel (biofuel) has further added to these tensions and poses new challenges to the domain of food law. Our research focuses on different public and private regulations (private food law) and regulators of food production and food trade. With regard to market-related fields, we focus on intellectual property rights, competitiveness of food industry, labelling, and law and economics.

Current research projects:

  • Competition in the food chain under pressure (see staff: Maria Litjens)
  • Regulating food law. Risk analysis the precautionary principle as general principles of EU food law (see staff: Anna Szajkowska)
  • The right to adequate food: a comparative research into models of decision and influence (Bart Wernaart)
  • Human right to food (see staff: Irene Hadiprayitno)
  • The battlefield of knowledge of governance on energy farming

Intellectual property rights, genetic resource policies and pro-poor innovation in food and agriculture

Our research focuses mainly on the interfaces between genetic resource policies, intellectual property rights (IPRs) and agricultural production systems, particularly how laws and policies affect systems of innovation in agriculture at the local (e.g. farmer), national (e.g. NARS) and international (e.g. CGIAR) level. For example with IPRs being enabling tools for innovation in the market place, their application and costs of assertion create tensions for research and development to non-market actors such as, small-holder farmers. We focus on the flexibilities in the legal IPRs systems, and in various IP licensing strategies, with a view to understand how their utility can facilitate pro-poor innovation and the integration of formal and informal seed systems. Next to IPRs, our research focuses on international and national legislation and policies regarding seed laws, access and benefit-sharing, and biosafety.

Current research projects:

  • Intellectual property regimes for pro-poor innovations in agriculture (Bram de Jonge)
  • Towards flexibilization of intellectual property rights for integrated seed sector development (Peter Munyi)
  • Unpacking the seed policy process in Ethiopia: Identifying opportunities for collaborative governance in seed sector development (Mohammed Hassena)

Past research projects:

  • A differentiated Intellectual Property Rights system for Africa (Bram de Jonge  and Marcelin Mahop)
  • Harnessing Intellectual Property Rights for Development Objectives (Bram de Jonge  and Niels Louwaars)


In our research, we work closely together with the following partners:

  • Integrated Seed Sector Development , Centre for Development and Innovation
  • Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands
  • The University of Cape Town’s Intellectual Property Unit