The Globalisation of Plant Variety Protection: Are Developing Countries Still Policy Takers?

  • Graham DutfieldEmail author


Until recently, for developing and emerging economies intellectual property policy taking was the norm rather than policy making. What we mean is that the developed countries set the standards for other countries to follow. This may still be the general trend but developing nations are starting to devise their own policy approaches that other countries are imitating. This shift towards policy making is certainly noticeable. But it is not yet hugely significant. Conformity to the recommendations (and still in some cases the dictates) of developed countries, their industries, and experts from the Global North remains very common. The question arises of whether developing countries continue to be policy takers or have begun to develop their own counter-norms which are viable. As we will see there is evidence that some developing countries are indeed “translating” international obligations in some imaginative ways that may (or may not) promote their interests better. It may be that divergences between Europe and the United States in how innovations in plant science and agricultural biotechnology are protected inadvertently encourages the adoption of more flexible perspectives than would otherwise have been envisaged. However, there are massive policy challenges ahead especially due to the lack of empirical evidence on the effects of different intellectual property rules concerning plants on rural development and food security that could be used to shape law and policy. This goes far in explaining why only a handful of countries has sought alternative approaches. Further research is desperately needed.


  1. Brokensha, D. (1999). What African farmers know. In D. A. Posey (Ed.), Cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity (pp. 309–312). Nairobi: UNEP and IT.Google Scholar
  2. Bugos, G. E., & Kevles, D. J. (1992). Plants as intellectual property: American practice, law, and policy in a world context. Osiris, 7, 75–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Castañeda-Álvarez, N. P., Khoury, C. K., Achicanoy, H. A., Bernau, V., Dempewolf, H., Eastwood, R. J., et al. (2016). Global conservation priorities for crop wild relatives. Nature Plants, 2, 16022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Deere, C. (2009). The implementation game: The TRIPS agreement and the global politics of intellectual property reform in developing countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dutfield, G. (2003). Intellectual property rights and the life science industries: A twentieth century history. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  6. Fowler, C. (1994). Unnatural selection: Technology, politics, and plant evolution. Yverdon: Gordon and Breach.Google Scholar
  7. Gilbert, N. (2016). The race to create super-crops. Nature, 533, 308–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Halewood, M. (Ed.). (2016). Farmers’ crop varieties and farmers’ rights: Challenges in taxonomy and law. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Halewood, M., & Lapeña, I. (2016). Farmers’ varieties and farmers’ rights: Challenges at the crossroads of agriculture, taxonomy and law. In M. Halewood (Ed.), Farmers’ crop varieties and farmers’ rights: Challenges in taxonomy and law (pp. 1–24). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Heitz, A. (1987). The history of plant variety protection. In The first twenty-five years of the international convention for the protection of new varieties of plants (pp. 53–96). Geneva: International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.Google Scholar
  11. Kingsbury, N. (2009). Hybrid: The history and science of plant breeding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kanniah, R. (2005). Plant variety protection in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Journal of World Intellectual Property, 8(3), 283–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kochupillai, M. (2016). Promoting sustainable innovations in plant varieties. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lertdhamtewe, P. (2013). Plant variety protection in Thailand: The need for a new coherent framework. Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice, 8(1), 33–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Louwaars, N. et al. (2005). Impacts of strengthened intellectual property rights regimes on the plant breeding industry in developing countries: A synthesis of five case studies. A study commissioned by the World Bank, Wageningen University.Google Scholar
  16. Louwaars, N. et al. (2009). Breeding business: The future of plant breeding in the light of developments in patent rights and plant breeder’s rights. Wageningen University.Google Scholar
  17. Louwaars, N., & De Boef, W. S. (2012). Integrated seed sector development in Africa: A conceptual framework for creating coherence between practices, programs and policies. Journal of Crop Improvement, 26, 39–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Montenegro, M. (2016). Banking on wild relatives to feed the world. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 16(1), 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mushegian, A. R., & Shepherd, R. J. (1995). Genetic elements of plant viruses as tools for genetic engineering. Microbiological Reviews, 59(4), 548–578.Google Scholar
  20. Pottage, A., & Sherman, B. (2010). Figures of invention: A history of patent law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Prifti, V. (2015). The breeder’s exception to patent rights: Analysis of compliance with Article 30 of the TRIPS Agreement. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rangnekar, D. (2013). Geneva rhetoric, national reality: The political economy of introducing plant breeders’ rights in Kenya. New Political Economy, 19(3), 359–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sage, G. C. M. (2002). Intellectual property, agriculture and genetic resources. Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (Unpublished paper on file with author).Google Scholar
  24. Smith, S., Lence, S., Hayes, D., Alston, J., & Corona, E. (2016). Elements of intellectual property protection in plant breeding and biotechnology: Interactions and outcomes. Crop Science, 56, 1401–1411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. UPOV. (2005). UPOV report on the impact of plant variety protection. International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.Google Scholar
  26. Wilson, T. M. (1989). Plant viruses: A tool-box for genetic engineering and crop protection. Bioessays, 10(6), 179–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. World Bank. (2006). Intellectual property rights: Designing regimes to support plant breeding in developing countries. World Bank Agriculture and Rural Development Department. Washington DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  28. Würtenberger, G., Van Der Kooij, P., Kiewiet, B., & Ekvad, M. (2015). European Union plant variety protection (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations