Saturday, May 7, 2011

Whether I P Laws can act as a savior from food scarcity

Intellectual Property Laws, can it act as a savior for billions of hungering people? This is one of the important issues to be discussed in the present world of law. Especially, in the context of the World Bank’s report that “global food production will have to double by 2050 to meet the rising demand”[i]. A highly efficient law can only save this world from such a big threat. IP Laws which is dealing with R&D, creation, trademarks, patents etc can be drawn in such a way to fulfill our intention.
Introduction of IP laws in agriculture is directly related to food production because third fourth of net food production is from agriculture sector.[ii] By the last 50 years many conventions and treaties are made by International Organizations relating to agriculture based IP Laws.[iii] Most of them liberalized global trade rules of agricultural products. Organization of farmers conducted struggles against it.[iv]They demanded for freedom in practice of agriculture. Those struggles were compelled legislatures to enact laws in favour of domestic food production.[v]
Merits of IP laws relating to food conservation
Commencement of new Intellectual Property laws encouraged private investors to begin research and studies in agricultural food production. Modern biotechnology is developing as a strong foundation for our food granary. Nanotechnology is one recent innovation of this. Some benefits are discussed below:
1) Specialized varieties of crop plants and seeds are developed.
2) New pest–control chemicals are invented for the agriculture sector.
3) Nutritional value of food products can be increased.[vi]
 4) New mechanical equipments like crop planters and harvesters are invented.
Those innovations can greatly assist the farmers to achieve higher product yield and enhanced product quality[vii]. They are also examples of technologies those developments may require many years of research and testing. Patenting is helpful for investors to keep third parties away from their sector. This makes large profit for investors.
Challenges of the IP Laws relating to food conservation
1) Faults made by framers. Most of the agriculture related IP Laws are not capable to include all agriculture related areas. There exist legislative gaps. Trade secrets, human resource development,[viii] research etc shall include in Intellectual Property laws.
 2) Private owners, who spend huge amount to develop specialized variety of seeds, plants, fertilizers, equipments etc, expect large economic profits from it. It adversely affects quality and quantity of yield.
3) Uncertainty of law can take the form of knowing the possible harms that may result from an activity i.e. the introduction of a new plant or animal into the environment. For example, when genetically modified canola was introduced onto the Canadian market, it was known that there was a strong likelihood that the canola would adventitiously grow outside the designated field. [ix]
4) Uncertainty of law may take the form of ambiguity, such that small groups of innovator’s may not aware about the value of their invention. They transact it at low rates of returns[x].
5) Harms hidden in new inventions may not foreseen even by a good scientist. 
6) The lack of scientific expertise on the judicial bench.
These are because of the absence of an efficient law to protect research studies, human resource developments, patents, trade secrets etc in food production and related areas.
Suggestions to overcome the challenges
1) Bills shall be prepared after consulting an expert in contemporary agricultural science.
2) Public Institutions of the State shall conduct studies and share its benefits with the farmers e.g. Agriculture research Universities can conduct research studies. Their findings can be share with local farmers. New methods of cultivation, new varieties of seeds etc may be evolved.
3) Encourage partnership between Universities and private entrepreneurs in research.
4) Make more awareness of IP Laws among farmers.
5) Improve the working of PIPRA[xi] in each and every nation.
6) Include persons having scientific knowledge in judicial bench. It can be implement by giving preference to judicial officers having science background.
7) Make formalities and price of patency affordable to low class farmers. So that food production can be increased in more scientific way.
 It can be conclude by remembering the words of Richard Jefferson[xii],he believes that “biotechnology can be used to benefit the poor and disenfranchised, but only if the R&D process is democratized so that everyone has access to critical scientific tools and technologies”[xiii]. We shall arise for a highly democratized Intellectual Property laws. Good governmental policies along with efficient laws, we could achieve our aim to increase food production and conserve the sources for tomorrow.
Prepared by Jino M Kurian, Student, fourth year B.A.,LL.B, Kerala Law Academy Law College, Thiruvanathapuram


[i] Michael R Taylor and Jerry Cayford RFF Report on American Patent Policy, Biotechnology and African Agriculture; The case for policy change, page no 9

[ii]Dr.Philippe Cullet, Food Security and Intellectual Property Rights in Developing Countries,IELRC Working Paper 2003

[iii] WTO’s TRIPS, Doha Declaration, PGRFA treaty,  treaties by FAO etc are few of them

[iv]Struggles against Basmati rice import in India, African Patent Issues, protest of ASEAN against Doha Declaration etc 
[v]The Geographical Indication of Goods Act, 1999 of India, Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994 of Australia, Federal law on Agriculture, 1998 of Sweden are examples
[vi]Dr.Philippe Cullet, Food Security and Intellectual Property Rights in Developing Countries, IELRC Working Paper
[vii]H. Maelor Davies, Ph.D. Director Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center University of Kentucky
   article on Patents and Agricultural Biotechnology 2008 at page 1;
[viii]NAAS, Intellectual Property Laws in Agriculture, Paper policy, February 2003, page no 4
[ix]E. Richard Gold, Professor, McGill University Faculty of Law article on Intellectual Property Issues in         
   Agriculture and Agri foods published in Valgen Policy Backgrounder February 2011. /uploads/Gold-Richard-version-2-E-2011-01-27.pdf
[xii]is the founder and CEO of Cambia, a Brisbane ,State of Queensland ,Australia

[xiii]interview with Richard Jefferson by Johanna Mair in Standard Social Innovation Review Spring 2011at pageno13


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