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.
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- plant genetic resources
- intellectual property
- open source
- open source seed initiative