Drake IP 2013: Chidi Oguamanam, “Forging Socially beneficial R&D in plant genetic resources for food and agriculture”

Liveblogged from Drake IP Roundtable 2013.

Chidi Oguamanam asks how can we use the concept of open innovation in order to empower and give capacity to people who are very much in need of it? We have yet to critically examine GMOs in terms of the social impact they might have and the benefits the may confer.

Control over seeds has led to a barrier of power and access between breeders and farmers. Some of the people who started the genetic revolution no longer have access to seeds. International law – UPOV and TRIPS plant breeders rights allows proprietary control of seeds, creating a monoculture and distributional problems.

The open access concept in plant breeding started before 1982, with an increasing focus on traditional knowledge and farmers’ rights. The idea is “to secure access for mainly developing countries and their indigenous and local farming communities to innovations arising from the use of PGRs”.

Oguamanam introduces Private – Public Partnership models to encourage research and also increase food security and access to genetic resources. Outlines a model based on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture where plant genetic resources are held on trust for the community. A framework built on special material transfer agreements allows open access and requires participation in a benefit sharing fund for commercial research applications based on pooled resources. Voluntary contributions are also made by public and NGO institutions.

Oguamanam is also hopeful about private, voluntary agreements. There are movements to develop socially responsible intellectual asset management principles. Private, voluntary agreements to increase access to PGRs. This is a recognition that there must be some soft IP licensing mechanisms that are flexible and pragmatic in increasing access to those in need. The idea is to increase humanitarian access to IP in PGRs. Ongoing dynamic enables “socially beneficial outcomes through mutual engagement of shared and closed mechanisms and cultivation of complex pragmatic partnerships of purpose between the public and private sector”

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