Prima facie reasons to question enclosed intellectual property regimes and favor open-source regimes for germplasm

Madeleine-Thérèse Halpert, M. Jahi Chappell

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    In principle, intellectual property protections (IPPs) promote and protect important but costly investment in research and development. However, the empirical reality of IPPs has often gone without critical evaluation, and the potential of alternative approaches to lend equal or greater support for useful innovation is rarely considered. In this paper, we review the mounting evidence that the global intellectual property regime (IPR) for germplasm has been neither necessary nor sufficient to generate socially beneficial improvements in crop plants and maintain agrobiodiversity. Instead, based on our analysis, the dominant global IPR appears to have contributed to consolidation in the seed industry while failing to genuinely engage with the potential of alternatives to support social goods such as food security, adaptability, and resilience. The dominant IPR also constrains collaborative and cumulative plant breeding processes that are built upon the work of countless farmers past and present. Given the likely limits of current IPR, we propose that social goods in agriculture may be better supported by alternative approaches, warranting a rapid move away from the dominant single-dimensional focus on encouraging innovation through ensuring monopoly profits to IPP holders.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number284
    JournalF1000 Research
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2017

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Data associated with the article are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Zero "No rights reserved" data waiver (CC0 1.0 Public domain dedication).


    • plant genetic resources
    • intellectual property
    • open source
    • open source seed initiative
    • Innovation


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