Stewardship or ownership in India: Options for community seed banks in managing crop genetic resources in relation to intellectual property rights

The Journal of World Intellectual Property, Vol 25, No 2, 2022, pp. 432-459

Community seed banks (CSBs) play an important role in ensuring access to crop genetic diversity. The extension of intellectual property rights (IPR) to include farmers' varieties and traditional knowledge in India could impinge on the role of these seed banks in conserving and sharing crop genetic resources. This study enquires into how CSBs are responding to these developments, and the strategic options available with regard to IPR. Should community seed banks claim IPRs over their material or should they focus on promoting greater access to achieve their aims of conservation, sustainable use and innovation of crop genetic resources? By employing two distinct strategies— the ownership and stewardship approaches—we analyse how CSBs in India respond to demands for greater legal control over crop genetic resources and the need for access to genetic resources to ensure food security, and derive possible strategy options. We examine the strategies adopted by five organizations that facilitate the work of such community seed banks, noting the prospects and challenges as regards adopting a stewardship or an ownership approach.



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