Benefiting from Biotechnology: Pro-Poor IPRs and Public-Private Partnerships

Baris Karapinar and Michelangelo Temmerman, Benefiting from Biotechnology: Pro-Poor IPRs and Public-Private Partnerships (2007). NCCR Trade Regulation Working Paper No. 2007/35 Available at SSRN.

The Green Revolution has contributed to the alleviation of poverty and hunger for hundreds of millions of people, but it remains technically and institutionally limited. It has largely bypassed small farms located in dry agro-ecological regions and its institutional ‘top-down’ approach was not equipped to address social, economic and environmental variations at the local level. However, with new developments in biotechnology, including genetic engineering, unprecedented possibilities for addressing the needs of smallholders in developing countries have arisen. Yet, there are new challenges too. The new technology is driven by the private sector, which is not attracted to investing in research on developing biotechnology specifically addressing the needs of small farms. Moreover, the accessibility of the existing technologies to small farms is arguably impeded by the intellectual property rights (IPRs) leading to monopoly prices and hindering technology diffusion. In this context, this paper analyzes how IPRs can be domestically tailored within the existing international commitments so as to encourage the development of technologies that favor and are accessible to small-scale farmers in developing countries. In particular, it proposes, for the first time, a special IPRs regime designed for public-private partnerships (PPPs), which would go beyond contractual arrangements and provide a more favorable institutional climate for the development of pro-poor and pro-small-scale biotechnology.

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