International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

Policy Brief 105, October 2021

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Saving, Sharing and Taking Care of the Plants and Seeds that Feed the World

By Dr. Kent Nnadozie

This Policy Brief provides an introduction to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its contribution to conserve, sustainably use and fairly and equitably share the benefits of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, for sustainable agriculture and food security. The brief also provides an update on the involvement of the ITPGRFA in the prevailing issues under discussion in various biodiversity-related fora, including ongoing negotiations for a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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Research Paper 139, October 2021

Governing Seed for Food Production: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

By Nina Isabella Moeller

Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) are part of the foundation of agriculture and of central importance to food sovereignty. These gain an increasingly pivotal role in the context of climate crises, which are threatening predictable crop production, and the erosion of agricultural biodiversity. The main instrument for the governance of PGRFA is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Strengthening the Treaty is crucial. The Treaty establishes a binding international framework for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use. Since 2013, negotiations have been underway to enhance the functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing. Current informal consultations may pave the way for constructive negotiations at the next Governing Body meeting in May 2022.

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Research Paper 130, April 2021

Misappropriation of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge: Challenges Posed by Intellectual Property and Genetic Sequence Information

By Nirmalya Syam and Thamara Romero

Improper acquisition of genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (TK) without prior informed consent and on mutually agreed terms, in accordance with national laws of the country providing the GR and associated TK, as well as without any fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from their utilization, has been a significant concern for developing countries. Intellectual property (IP) rights can serve as one of the means of such misappropriation. One of the mechanisms sought by developing countries to prevent it consists in the establishment of an effective multilateral legal mechanism for defensive protection against misappropriation, primarily through the introduction of a mandatory disclosure requirement about the source and country of origin of such resources in intellectual property right (IPR) applications. These negotiations have been taking place in different fora. However, there is an increased sense of frustration due to the lack of progress in achieving consensus during the last twenty years. Meanwhile, new modes of misappropriation of GRs are evolving through the use of genetic sequence information and data of GRs, and by applying technological developments in synthetic biology. This paper discusses the use of IP and genetic sequence information and data as modes of misappropriation of GRs and associated TK and the deficits of the current international legal framework in preventing such misappropriation. This paper also maps the state of play of the ongoing negotiations in the context of these issues in different fora, and, in conclusion, proposes possible alternative approaches for addressing these pressing issues at the multilateral level.

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Submission on UPOV Circular E-20/246, February 2021

South Centre Contribution in response to UPOV Circular E-20/246

The South Centre, as an intergovernmental observer to the UPOV Council, submits this contribution on views on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers. The South Centre appreciates this opportunity to inform the possible development of guidance regarding the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers.

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Policy Brief 87, February 2021

WIPO Negotiations for an International Legal Instrument on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources

By Nirmalya Syam

Over the past few years, Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have engaged in negotiations for concluding an international legal instrument on intellectual property and genetic resources. While developing countries have a major interest in securing through this instrument a mandatory requirement for applicants of IP rights over innovations that utilize genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge to disclose their source or origin, certain developed countries that are major markets for such products are absolutely opposed to recognizing the disclosure requirement as an objective of the legal instrument under negotiation. Other developed countries are agreeable to a disclosure requirement with a narrow scope, broad exceptions, and weakened remedies against non-compliance. This Policy Brief analyses the current state of play in the negotiations considering the different positions as reflected in the draft negotiating text, as well as a proposal by the Chair of the WIPO intergovernmental committee where the negotiations are taking place, to bridge the difference and take the negotiations forward. This brief concludes that any meaningful international legal instrument on IP and GRs in WIPO must recognize the fundamental issue of misappropriation of GRs through the IP system that should be resolved through a mandatory disclosure requirement as the principal mechanism. It would also be critical to ensure that the WIPO instrument is coherent with other related international legal instruments such the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing; specialized instruments like the FAO Plant Treaty as well as related mechanisms or fora like the WHO (on use of pathogens as a genetic resource) and the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) negotiations on marine genetic resources beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

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SouthViews No. 205, 31 August 2020

Digital Sequence Information (DSI) and national measures: approaches and perspectives

By Jorge Cabrera Medaglia

Digital sequence information (DSI, or genetic sequence data) is an emerging aspect of synthetic biology which involves certain functional genetic sequences being shared by different means. The genetic sequences from plants, animals or micro-organisms could be used to support conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, to develop and commercialize new products and processes, or for other purposes. The regulation of the use of DSI for both commercial and non-commercial entities may have huge implications for the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) regimen established in the international instruments, ongoing processes and regional and national legislation that implement these conventions. International guidance is needed to promote a coordinated approach to secure fair and equitable sharing of benefits while avoiding a negative impact on the non-commercial benefits arising from the genetic data.

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SC and Oxfam Novib Research Report on The Status of Patenting Plants in the Global South, December 2018

The Status of Patenting Plants in the Global South

Over the last few decades, the number of patents on plants and plant parts has greatly increased in various parts of the world. This has triggered social debate about possible negative consequences for the breeding sector, farmers and society. Despite the urgency of these questions, most research and literature has focused exclusively on developed countries – the USA and European Union, in particular – while little is known about the extent to which plants are being patented in other parts of the world. This research report, conducted and written by Prof. Carlos M. Correa, aims to fill this information gap by providing an overview of the status of patenting plants in the developing countries and emerging economies of the Global South.

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IP Negotiations Monitor 24, April 2018

The IP Negotiations Monitor summarizes the latest developments in multilateral and regional fora where intellectual property negotiations are taking place, and informs on upcoming meetings and events.

(Covering period: January – March 2018)

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