Seeds of Change, Intellectual Property Protection for Agricultural Biotechnology

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their relationship to intellectual property (IP) rights raise a variety of issues for a variety of professionals in widely diverse fields. For the crop scientist, a GMO represents the product of harnessing and exploiting knowledge about molecular genetics; for the seed producer, it is the basis for competitive advantage in important ag-biotech markets; for the Patent Office, it may represent a non-obvious improvement. As disparate as these outcomes may seem, they are drawn together by the fact that patent rights occupy an important place upstream in the value chain in the modern food sector. Granting patent rights for biotechnology-enhanced seed induces private investment in research and development, creates differentiated ag-input markets, and, as we have witnessed with European consumers’ unwillingness to accept GMO foods, differentiated downstream product markets. Linking the role of IP rights in agriculture through the value chain shows not only how technology, markets and social policies are tightly coupled, but also indicates why IP rights are at the center of many emerging social priorities.
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This content has been updated on August 18, 2015 at 8:50.