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CABI Book Chapter

Intellectual property rights and food security.

Book cover for Intellectual property rights and food security.


This book examines the contribution which intellectual property rights can make in the struggle for food security in developing countries. The book consists of 11 chapters. Chapter 1 locates intellectual property rights within the armoury of food security policies. Chapter 2 deals with definitional issues and examines the role of intellectual property rights in incentivizing agricultural research ...


Chapter 7 (Page no: 142)

Intellectual property aspects of genetically modified organisms and food security.

This chapter examines the intellectual property implications of the use of genetically modified (GM) crops as a technological solution to food insecurity. On 3 March 1998, the USDA and the Delta & Pine Land Company were registered as assignees of a US patent 'to control plant gene expression'. This technology allowed plant breeders to modify crops so that, after germination, they would produce sterile seed. This technology was first known as the 'Technology Protection System', after which it has become known as GURT. GURT is a broad term that refers to any use of an external chemical inducer to control the expression of any genetic trait of a plant. There are two types of GURTs: (i) v-GURTs: where the use of a crop variety is controlled through genetically induced seed sterility; and (ii) t-GURTs: where the use of a trait, such as disease resistance or early ripening, is controlled. 'Terminator technology' is used to describe v-GURTs. It has been suggested that the primary purpose of GURTs is for seed companies to prevent seed saving. Also, it overcomes the cost, expenditure of time and unpredictability of patent litigation. As a corollary to this argument, where an IP regime might be ineffective, GURTs could provide an alternative safeguard to investment in the development of new plant varieties by life-sciences firms. A valuable function has been suggested for v-GURTs in reducing the possibility of genetic pollution from GMOs. The main environmental concern about v-GURT plants is that they could cross-pollinate with non-GM plants, either in the wild or on the fields of farmers who do not adopt the technology. This cross-pollination could reduce yield in the subsequent year due to occurrence of sterile seeds in neighbouring stands. As a patentable technology, v-GURTs are subject to the express limitations of the morality clause contained in most patent statutes. The protection of food security has not yet been tested as a ground of morality objection to patentability. Another ground, which has developed in the USA as a gloss on the statute, is the patent misuse doctrine. If patent law proves to be problematic for the protection of v-GURTs, seed developers can resort to trade secrecy protection.

Other chapters from this book

Chapter: 1 (Page no: 1) Intellectual property and food security - policy issues. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 2 (Page no: 22) Intellectual property and agriculture. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 3 (Page no: 57) International intellectual property landscape. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 4 (Page no: 79) Plant variety protection and food security. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 5 (Page no: 95) Genetic resources for food and agriculture. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 6 (Page no: 122) Traditional agricultural knowledge and farmers' rights. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 8 (Page no: 183) Geographical indications and food security. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 9 (Page no: 209) Competition aspects. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 10 (Page no: 225) Intellectual property and agricultural research. Author(s): Blakeney, M.
Chapter: 11 (Page no: 234) Assessment of the relationship between intellectual property and food security. Author(s): Blakeney, M.

Chapter details

  • Author Affiliation
  • Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK.
  • Year of Publication
  • 2009
  • ISBN
  • 9781845935603
  • Record Number
  • 20093148117