Patent Politics and Litigation in the Global South
How lawsuits around intellectual property in Brazil and India are impacting the patentability of plants and seeds, farmers' rights, and the public interest.
Over the past decade, legal challenges have arisen in the Global South over patents on genetically modified crops. In this ethnographic study, Karine E. Peschard explores the effects of these disputes on people's lives, while uncovering the role of power—material, institutional, and discursive—in shaping laws and legal systems. The expansion of corporate intellectual property (IP), she shows, negatively impacts farmers' rights and, by extension, the right to food, since small farms produce the bulk of food for domestic consumption. Peschard sees emerging a new legal common sense concerning the patentability of plant-related inventions, as well as a balance among IP, farmers' rights, and the public interest.
Peschard examines the strengthening of IP regimes for plant varieties, the consolidation of the global biotech industry, the erosion of agrobiodiversity, and farmers' dispossession. She shows how litigants question the legality of patents and private IP systems implemented by Monsanto for royalties on three genetically modified crop varieties, Roundup Ready soybean in Brazil and Bt cotton and Bt eggplant in India. Peschard argues that these private IP systems have rendered moot domestic legislation on plant variety protection and farmers' rights. This unprecedented level of corporate concentration in such a vital sector raises concerns over the erosion of agricultural biodiversity, farmers' rights and livelihoods, food security, and, ultimately, the merits of extending IP rights to higher life forms such as plants.
“Seed Activism offers a fascinating analysis of IP rights and global agribusiness in Brazil and India. Farmers' rights and public goods sometimes triumph over multinational agribusiness, Excellent primary research, highly recommended.”
Susan Sell, School of Regulation and Global Governance, The Australian National University
“Peschard fills a lacuna in the literature with a focus on the courts as a critical nexus in determining how and in what form intellectual property rights are imposed.”
Jack Kloppenburg, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Secretary, Open Source Seed Initiative
“Patents on seeds disrupted ancestral farmers' saving and sharing practices. This book provides a unique and welcome analysis of judicial courts' role in limiting such patent monopolies in agriculture.”
Carlos Correa, Executive Director, South Centre
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding and support from the Swiss National Science Foundation