Intellectual property regimes for pro-poor innovations in agriculture

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) intend to provide incentives for innovation by providing an exclusive right on commercialisation. IPR systems are expanding, both in terms of the number of countries, and the subject matter to which these regulations apply. Yet, the incentive for breeding new plant varieties for poor farmers is unclear since they commonly depend on informal seed sources. On the other hand, more advanced technologies may be available to developing countries when IPRs are effectively implemented. Ethical dilemmas arise as to who will benefit from the different types of IPRs.

The research project will analyse the different seed systems for commercial and food security crops and assess the impact of different IPR systems (Trademarks, Patents and Plant Breeder’s Rights). The project concentrates on South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia and involves case studies that have a strong link with The Netherlands (potato biotechnology and vegetable breeding). The project will inform African countries that are to introduce or upgrade their IP systems, managers of the breeding organisations in Africa and abroad that have to adjust their IP-strategies accordingly in such a way that innovation, and (poor) people’s access to its products, is indeed stimulated. The project has an interdisciplinary management team with scientists from these African countries, and secured involvement of African NGO’s, private sector and research managers in the valorisation team. The scientific publications and policy briefs, and the linkages of the project with ongoing initiatives, contribute to its societal relevance.