In a recent article published in Technology in Society, several academics argue that intellectual property rights—primarily the ability to obtain patents—have hindered the adoption and diffusion of agricultural biotechnology. As a way to encourage the use of agbiotech, especially in developing countries, the authors suggest that if discoveries in agricultural biotechnology were available through open source networks, developing nations would benefit much more from agricultural biotechnology.
Conspicuously absent from this analysis is any mention of the strangulation of agricultural biotechnology by unscientific, unneeded, and discriminatory regulations. Unless these debilitating regulatory burdens are removed, or at least lightened, the intellectual property framework applied to agbiotech discoveries will be irrelevant, open source or not.
The authors of the article offer three examples of genetically engineered crops currently or potentially available thanks to some attributes of open source access: virus-resistant papaya, pod borer-resistant cowpea, and vitamin A-enhanced rice (“Golden Rice”). Although all of them have benefited from open access to biotech discoveries, to be sure, all also offer cautionary tales about the irrelevance of intellectual property rights in the face of gratuitous regulatory obstacles.
View the full article here: Politics and the Poor Man’s Plate