Resources for:

Innovation and Agriculture

June 2016

Policy brief: The relationship between intellectual property rights and small-scale farmer innovation

The relationship between intellectual property (IP) and small-scale farmer innovation is far from straightforward. The majority of innovation in agriculture is not driven by the promise of exclusionary rights that some IP tools afford — it takes place on the farm and is a collaborative and incremental process, the outcomes of which cannot be attributed to individual rights holders.

However some IP tools – when carefully selected and adapted to suit domestic circumstances – may have the potential to help drive small-scale farmer innovation or, at minimum, allow the space for it to occur unimpeded.

This paper discusses how alternative or sui generis plant variety protection systems, collective and certification trademarks, and geographical indications may encourage on-farm innovation.

On the other hand, IP tools that are more conventionally believed to incentivise innovation in agriculture (i.e. patents, UPOV-style plant variety protection systems, and less commonly trade secrets) have the potential to impede on-farm innovation.

Policy makers at the national level should take into account the value of small-scale farmer innovation for national and global food security when developing national food security strategies, and take advantage of the flexibilities allowed under the WTO TRIPS Agreement when implementing IP legislation that reflects the realities of domestic agricultural sectors.

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April 2016

Access to seeds: lessons from the access to medicines debate

The history and dynamics of the access to medicines debate provide a number of reflections for those concerned with protecting farmers’ access to seeds. Taking the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as its point of departure, this paper explores implications for interested parties at the international and national levels, as well as for multilateral institutions themselves.

Three lessons stand out in particular.

  1. The process that led to the Declaration highlights the significance of global public opinion in shaping negotiations, as well as the value of combining this with pragmatic coalition-building amongst states, NGOs and the media.
  2. Domestically, national governments should make creative use of TRIPS flexibilities. This has been done to bring down the cost of medicines in numerous countries and should be emulated by governments wishing to protect farmers’ seed systems, which rely on experimentation, storage, exchange and re-use of seeds. ‘Access’ in this paper is taken to encompass these activities, rather than simply referring to the availability of new varieties developed by commercial breeders.
  3. There is an urgent need for sustained, productive collaboration between relevant multilateral institutions. Collaboration between the WHO, WTO and WIPO on access to medicines has facilitated a broader consideration of innovation. Similar engagement is necessary between the FAO, WTO, WIPO and others to clarify the complicated governance structure for plant genetic resources and ensure farmers’ continued access to seed.

Freely available for download below under Creative Commons license.

Author: 

  • Patrick Endall

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December 2015

Policy Brief: Small-scale farmer innovation

This policy brief consolidates lessons learned from an in-depth literature review on small-scale farmer (SSF) innovation systems and a two-day expert consultation on the same topic that QUNO hosted in May 2015. 

The key message here is that small-scale farmer innovation systems are unique relative to more ‘formal’ agricultural innovation systems. For this reason, the types of policies that are put in place to encourage innovation in agriculture require a fundamental reconsideration.

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December 2015

Policy Brief: The relationship between food security policy measures and WTO trade rules

This report first provides a historical overview of both the concept of food security and the incorporation of agriculture into international trade negotiations. It then turns to the relationship between food security policy options and the WTO’s trade rules, and highlights opportunities for governments to implement policies that support food security while meeting their international obligations. It concludes by laying out a range of policy measures to enhance food security, assessing the compatibility of each with WTO regulations. 

Prepared by David Elliott, based on a full-length report by Kim Burnett, available below. 

Languages: 

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December 2015

Project Brief: An Interactive Trade Policy Tool

QUNO has been developing an online tool to help explain the complex relationship between food security measures and the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) trade rules. Susan Bragdon, our Food & Sustainability Representative, talks through her vision of the tool and how she believes it could benefit small-scale farmers, trade negotiators and food security.

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November 2015

Small-scale farmer innovation systems: a review of the literature

Small-scale farmer innovation systems have remained an abstract and elusive concept - this document seeks clarification by presenting a review of the academic literature on the subject.

In it, we call for further evidence-based research documenting small-scale farmers' contributions to food security, livelihood improvement and agroecosystem resilience. Through this, we hope small-scale farmers may become more visible in policymaking and more supported within national innovation strategies.

Read the full report below:

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October 2015

Small-scale Farmer Innovation Systems: Report on the First Expert Consultation 26-27 May 2015 Chateau de Bossey, Switzerland

In May 2015, QUNO convened a small expert consultation in Geneva to discuss the emerging concept of small-scale farmer innovation systems. The event brought together 19 participants from across 12 countries, providing a platform for discussing first-hand experiences of innovation at this level. The experience of one of the attendees - Joe Ouko, a farmer from Kenya, features in the 93rd edition of Quaker News ('Starting small', p.11): http://issuu.com/quakers-in-britain/docs/quaker_news_93_4f36b9a9828ae7/1 

Over the course of the two days, detailed information was shared, gaps highlighted, working relationships established and future directions explored. The report, which can be accessed by clicking the link below, represents a synthesis of what was discussed; something that will be valuable in informing QUNO’s work moving forward.

Read the report, as well as a literature review of small-scale farmer innovation systems, below:

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August 2015

Realizing the right to food in an era of climate change

Agriculture is a major contributor to anthropogenic climate change, and in turn climate change threatens the viability of food production around the world. The spread of capital- and technology-intensive 'industrial' agriculture in the modern era has been accompanied by an erosion of on-farm genetic diversity, a loss of local knowledge, and the abandonment of traditional farming practices. This undermines our capacity to
adapt to already-changing climatic conditions.

This report highlights the role of small-scale farmers as innovators and custodians of food system diversity, a critical resource in ensuring the realization of the right to food in an era of climate change. Taking an innovation systems perspective, it proposes a new framework for the design of collaborative agricultural research projects and agendas, and notes the need for pro-active policy measures in creating an enabling environment for such partnerships.

The report is available for download free by clicking on the link below.

Languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese

Author: 

  • Chelsea Smith
  • David Elliott
  • Susan H. Bragdon

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March 2015

Oral Statement on the role of Small Scale Farmers and the Right to Food at the 28th session of the HRC

QUNO delivered an oral statement in the 28th session of the Human Rights Council at the Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing. Susan BragdonRepresentive for our Food & Sustainability programme delivered the statement in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver.

Text and video (beginning at 00:32:57) of the statement is available below.

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December 2014

Geneva Reporter, October - December 2014

In this issue:

  • What is an NDC? Elements for a New Climate Agreement 
  • Drones: Transparency and Protection 
  • I Belong: Eradicating Statelessness 
  • Biological Diversity, Food Security and Small-scale Farmers’ Innovation 
  • Highlights from QUNO New York
  • News in Brief

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August 2014

QUNO and Minute 36

Minute 36 (the Canterbury Commitment) challenges Quakers to seek a sustainable, equitable and peaceful life on Earth. Britain Yearly Meeting is responding to this challenge by focusing on how to become a low-carbon sustainable community. The Quaker United Nations Office responds to the same challenge at the international level in our work on climate change, natural resource management, food and sustainability, and human rights.

This briefing paper connects the work of QUNO to the concerns and the spirit of Minute 36, describing the linkages between local, national and international levels of engagement.

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January 2014

Developing country sui generis options for plant variety protection

These briefing papers on sui generis options for plant variety protection (PVP) are to encourage and support governmental officials and others who wish to develop a PVP system that matches their country’s needs. These briefing papers are the third and fourth in a series on TRIPS-compatible alternatives to UPOV.

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October 2013

Definition of 'Breeder' under UPOV

A briefing paper on food, biological diversity and intellectual property for the October 2013 UPOV sessions. It urges delegates to carefully consider their countries' objectives and realities in the area of agriculture when discussing the draft Explanatory Note on the definition of 'breeder' in the UPOV Council and Committee, particularly in relation to the role that smallholder farmers play in plant breeding.

Author: 

  • Caroline Dommen

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July 2013

Small-scale Farmers: The missing element in the WIPO-IGC Draft Articles on Genetic Resources

The Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is currently negotiating intellectual property rules around Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions/folklore. The implications of the draft text on small-scale farmers and food security are unclear. Here we explore the possible linkages and questions that should be further explored.

Author: 

  • Susan Bragdon

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September 2012

TRIPS-Related Patent Flexibilities and Food Security: Options For Developing Countries - Policy Guide

Food security is  as a pressing global challenge. Agricultural innovation is critical to addressing it. Equally important is ensuring that the benefits of such innovation are widely diffused, especially in developing countries.

How should countries design their intellectual property (IP) system to encourage and support agricultural innovation?  

The TRIPS Agreement provides WTO Members with flexibility to implement IP provisions in a way consistent with their agriculture and food security objectives. Yet these flexibilities have received little attention so far.

This Policy Guide seeks to fill this gap by providing an overview of TRIPS-related patent flexibilities that support agriculture and food security. 

This Policy Guide is designed for negotiators and policymakers in the areas of intellectual property, agriculture and food policy as well as breeders, farmers and other members of civil society. It also intended to be a useful tool for providers and recipients of technical assistance in the areas of intellectual property and agriculture. 

Author: 

  • Carlos M. Correa

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February 2012

Geneva Reporter

QUNO Geneva's newsletter for November 2011 to February 2012. Featured stories:

- Preventing Armed Violence: the Geneva Declaration Review Conference
- The Unknown Impacts of Seeds Policies: Exploring the Effects of UPOV
- News from QUNO New York
- Watching the Climate Change Negotiations
- News in Brief, Jardins Ouverts, and Publications

Author: 

  • QUNO

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December 2011

QUNO Review 2011

Review of the activities of QUNO in 2011, including:

  • Peace and Disarmament
  • Prevention of Violent Conflict
  • Peacebuilding
  • Food & Sustainability
  • Human Impacts of Climate Change
  • Human Rights & Refugees
  • Palestine and Statehood at the UN
  • Other Quaker Work at the UN
  • Looking Forward

Author: 

  • QUNO

Languages: 

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September 2011

Intellectual Property and Biodiversity: Friend or Foe?

This is the report of a panel discussion that considered how Intellectual Property (IP) can help preserve biological diversity, and how IP might undermine such diversity. The discussion looked at some of the fora in which IP and biodiversity issues are being discussed, in particular the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Panellists pointed to some likely future directions of policy and thinking in this area.

This panel was organised by QUNO and the Geneva Environment Network.

Author: 

  • QUNO

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